Disney Promotes Debra OConnell to News Group and Networks President

The executive, who currently oversees ABC Owned Television Stations, will add ABC News to her purview

debra-oconnell-disney
Debra OConnell (Credit: ABC/Danny Weiss)

Disney Entertainment has promoted Debra OConnell to president of its News Group and Networks division.

In her new role, OConnell will add ABC News to her purview, which already includes ABC Owned Television Stations and profit and loss responsibilities across the company’s multi-platform linear entertainment networks, including ABC broadcast network, Disney Channels, FX Networks, Freeform and National Geographic Channels.

In a memo to staff, OConnell said the internal alignment of the ABC News, owned stations and network teams is “an important and strategic move for our company and a powerful statement to the industry.”

“Together, we stand ready to meet our audiences where, when and how they choose to engage with us, and we will use our many platforms to build on our momentum,” she wrote. “We have a long and proud history of super-serving our viewers and communities, and as we look to the future, this remains our highest priority.”

ABC News president Kim Godwin, who has renewed her contract with the network, and ABC Owned Television Stations president Chad Matthews will report directly to OConnell.

In her own memo to staff, Godwin said that the consolidation under OConnell would allow ABC News to “better amplify the incredible work we all produce daily.”

“Debra and I have collaborated over the last couple of years, and she is a dedicated leader who always champions the best in journalism,” she added.

OConnell, a 27-year veteran of of the company, most recently served as president of Disney Entertainment Television’s Networks and Television Business Operations.

Prior to that, she led WABC-TV New York as president and general manager, where she had overall management responsibility for the station and all of its ancillary businesses, as well as “Live With Kelly and Ryan.” Under her leadership, the long-running hit series became the No. 1 syndicated daytime talk show for the first time in franchise history.

Other previous executive roles include executive vice president of sales and marketing for Disney and ABC’s consolidated advertising sales group, ABC Owned Television Stations’ president of national TV sales and WABC-TV’s vice president of marketing.

OConnell will report to Disney Entertainment cochairman Dana Walden.

“Debra is an excellent executive who has succeeded in a wide range of leadership roles around our company and knows very well the extraordinary power of ABC News and its world-class journalists,” Walden said in a statement. “This new role gives her oversight across all our linear operations, where she will be able to optimize our iconic brands and shepherd them into the future. I look forward to having her lead these incredibly talented teams as we build on our success.”

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