Disney/ABC chief Sweeney to exit post

Disney/ABC Television Group president and Disney Media Networks co-chair Anne Sweeney is to leave the company to become a TV director.

Anne Sweeney croppedSweeney, who joined Disney in 1996, will step down in January 2015.

The Disney/ABC Television Group includes broadcast channel ABC, cable net ABC Family, kids channel Disney Channel, the Disney Channels Worldwide business and ABC Studios. Sweeney oversaw those along with Disney’s stakes in A+E Networks, Hulu and Fusion.

Disney hopes to recruit a replacement for Sweeney by May, with the likes of Disney CFO Jay Rasulo and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg linked to the post. Rasulo and Disney theme parks chief Thomas Staggs are thought to be the front runners.

Commenting on her decision, Sweeney said that “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 realised dream.”

Disney CEO Bob Iger said: “I applaud Anne for knowing what she wants out of life and for having the courage to follow her dream. We’re thrilled she’ll be with us through the end of the year, and look forward to having her direct one of our shows in the future.”