Disney Networks Group Shuffle Translates to Bigger Roles for FX’s Chuck Saftler, Disney Channel’s Sean Cocchia

Walt Disney Studios
Michael Buckner/Variety

As Disney continues to shuffle the corporate pieces in a bid to streamline its operations, Disney’s networks division head Debra O’Connell fleshed out the group’s organizational structures to staffers in an internal memo Tuesday afternoon, Variety has confirmed.

Those changes include naming Sean Cocchia — most recently executive vice president of business operations and general manager of Disney Channels — to lead business operations for Disney, National Geographic Channels and franchise management for the group’s networks. The new position means that he will oversee business strategy, P&L, audience strategy and reporting and measurement.

Separately, FX Networks president of programming strategy Chuck Saftler is expanding his purview to include business operations for ABC, Freeform and FX Networks, and lead library and second-run acquisitions for the group’s networks.

O’Connell also noted that Wendy McMahon will continue to head the ABC-owned TV stations group and David Miller will lead business operations for National Geographic Media. Expect announcements in the near future on leadership at Disney’s ESPN Networks business ops and commercial marketing teams.

The networks group, part of the broader media and entertainment distribution unit, has operational leadership of Disney’s U.S. linear TV channels and business planning and audience strategy for ABC, Disney Channel, FX, ESPN, Freeform, National Geographic and several other networks.

Deadline first reported news of the leadership announcement.

O’Connell’s full memo can be read below:

Dear team,

I am writing to confirm more details about our Networks Group within our Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution organization (DMED). I would like to thank everyone — leaders, stakeholders and content partners — who I have met with over the past three weeks; your input has helped us to begin charting our course forward. I would also like to thank those teams who will join our organization; you will be critical to our success and you can expect to hear more from me and the leaders named below in the coming weeks.

As Kareem outlined in his recent note, our organization is responsible for the operational leadership and P&L oversight of the Company’s domestic linear television channels, as well as business planning, network / channel commercial marketing, and audience strategy for some of the best stations and networks in the industry: our ABC broadcast network and eight ABC Owned stations, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, ESPN Networks, FX Networks, Freeform and National Geographic Networks.

As you all know, the television business has experienced more change in the past couple of years than in the last decade – and while the landscape is changing dramatically, there is also tremendous opportunity. By closely integrating the business aspects of each of these linear channels, we can be more nimble in how we anticipate and navigate this change while strategically propelling the business forward. Working closely with Disney’s creative content teams, we will collaboratively determine content requirements and programming budgets for each of the channels, while also leading our acquisition strategy for second run and library content across our portfolio of channels in partnership with our streaming services.

Today, I am pleased to announce the organizational structure for DMED’s Networks group, which consists of proven leaders from across different teams:

1. Sean Cocchia will head up Business Operations for Disney and National Geographic Channels and Franchise Management for our portfolio of networks. In this role, he will be responsible for business strategy, P&L, audience strategy, and reporting/measurement, as well as interfacing with the Disney+ team. Sean previously was EVP, Business Operations and general manager, Disney Channels.
2. Wendy McMahon will continue to lead the ABC Owned Television Stations Group, having chief management responsibility for the eight ABC owned television stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham and Fresno. In this role, she will also continue to be responsible for local/regional news in these markets along with talent development, content strategy & programming and community engagement.
3. David Miller will lead the business operations functions of National Geographic Media which includes the P&L, strategy, and subscriber experience for the print and digital experiences of our iconic magazines.
4. Chuck Saftler will broaden his scope beyond FX Networks to head up Business Operations for ABC, Freeform and FX Networks. He will lead business strategy, P&L, audience strategy, and reporting/measurement, as well as interfacing with the Hulu team. Additionally Chuck will lead library/2nd run acquisitions for our portfolio of networks. Chuck previously served as president of programming strategy for FX Networks.

I look forward to confirming leadership of two more critical functions in the coming weeks: our ESPN Networks Business Operations and our Commercial Marketing teams.

I am confident that once the full leadership team is in place we will be strongly positioned for ongoing success. It is an honor to have been tasked with leading this impressive team and I’m excited for us to get to work.

May you all have a happy Thanksgiving holiday. While it may look and feel different this year, I hope you can find a few moments to connect with those you hold dear and share some moments of gratitude.

All the best,