After 18 years at Disney, Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, will be stepping down at the end of her current contract in January 2015 to pursue a career as a TV director. “The past 18 years at Disney have been the highlight of my executive career,” Sweeney said. “But as wonderful as the experience has been, there has always been a nagging voice in the back of my head pushing me to step out of the comfort zone of the executive ranks and more directly into the creative arena that enticed me to TV in the first place. I finally listened to that voice and thought, ‘if not now, when?’ I know my decision to step back from all of this to learn the art of Directing may seem surprising, but to me it’s a long realized dream.”
Sweeney’s exit, which had been rumored on and off for the past several years, comes as the group’s flagship network, ABC, has been going through rough times. Sweeney brought in current ABC president Paul Lee who may be losing his biggest supporter at the company with her departure. Said Disney topper Bob Iger, “Over the years, Anne grew our Disney Channel business into a global powerhouse and the main brand driver of our Company around the world; built ABC Family into a top cable network here in the U.S.; made ABC a strong, successful content creation engine; and has been a great partner in leading our industry into the digital age.” Additionally, Sweeney has overseen Disney’s equity interest in A+E Networks, Fusion, and Hulu and played a role in the axing of History’s first original miniseries, The Kennedys.
As for Seeney’s replacement, which would likely be named in the next couple of months, Disney has had a rising superstar executive amongst its ranks in Nancy Dubuc, who just got her latest big promotion last year when she was named president and CEO of A+E Networks.