EXCLUSIVE: A month after Debra O’Connell was promoted to head of Disney’s Networks Group, she has restructured the division, giving additional responsibilities to two industry veterans from the two sides of the Disney-Fox merger.
O’Connell reports to Kareem Daniel, who was recently named chairman of Disney’s Media and Entertainment Distribution segment as part of the company’s broader restructure.
Saftler, who was previously president of programming strategy and COO for FX Networks, will now head up business operations for ABC and Freeform as well as the Fargo network. He will lead business strategy, P&L, audience strategy and reporting/measurement, as well as working with the Hulu team and leading library and second-run acquisitions for its channels. Saftler is longest tenured FX employee, having joined the network in Dec. 1993 as Director of Scheduling, seven months prior to the launch of FX.
Cocchia, who was formerly EVP Business Operations and General Manager, Disney Channels, will head up Business Operations for Disney and National Geographic Channels and Franchise Management for its portfolio of networks. This means he will be responsible for business strategy, P&L, audience strategy and reporting/measurement, as well as working with the Disney+ team.
O’Connell, who was previously president and general manager of WABC-TV, the country’s most-watched local station, said the moves will allow the company to be “more nimble” in a changing business.
There are not thought to be any departures in the business operations divisions as part of the reshuffle. Wendy McMahon will continue as president of ABC Owned Television Stations Group, while David Miller will continue as EVP and General Manager of National Geographic Media, which is responsible for the natural history brand’s print and digital publications.
O’Connell is expected to confirm leadership of two other areas in the coming weeks: ESPN Networks Business Operations and Disney’s Commercial Marketing teams.
Read the memo below:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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