Inside Move: Alphabet soup for Sweeney

Will TV exec stir or stew at ABC?

Never an exec comfortable with the spotlight, ABC Cable Networks Group topper Anne Sweeney is about to find the glare even more intense.

With the departure of ABC Entertainment TV Group chairman Lloyd Braun, and a change in duties for ABC TV Network topper Alex Wallau, Sweeney will likely add Alphabet web duties to her post in the coming weeks.

Sweeney’s recent track record is solid — she presided over the ascendancy of the Disney Channel, and both Toon Disney and Soap Net have added millions of subscribers — but she faces big hurdles leading a combined cable-broadcast charge.

For starters, Sweeney and her close-knit staff are frequently at odds with the creative community. Her staff looks with distrust on outside suppliers, preferring to do most of their original programming inhouse.

And the exec’s insecurity is likely to flare up if she adds ABC to her portfolio. She seems uncomfortable in the limelight, and when she does speak in public she comes off as guarded and rarely veers from a planned script.

Observers also wonder whether Sweeney will have the time to focus on ABC, given her cable duties. And as a broadcast outsider, she may not have the kind of contacts necessary to quickly start rebuilding the network.

Ultimately, Sweeney’s success or failure at the network will depend on how much autonomy she’s given from above — and how much freedom she’ll give execs like ABC Entertainment prexy Susan Lyne and Mark Shapiro, if he joins ABC.

“Anne’s a great executive,” says one high-level agent. “But I’m not sure what her job really is. ABC is ultimately creating the same structure, when what they need to do is streamline that structure.”

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