The Walt Disney Company has announced that Anne Sweeney will leave her position as cochair of Disney Media Networks and president of the Disney/ABC Television Group, effective January 2015. Sweeney will pursue her dream of directing.
"The past 18 years at Disney have been the highlight of my executive career. I've been a part of an amazing evolution in our business and our industry, and have achieved far more than I ever thought possible," Sweeney said in a statement. "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."
Disney chairman and CEO Robert Iger thanked Sweeney for her work, and added that he "applaud[s] Anne for knowing what she wants out of life and for having the courage to follow her dream."
During Sweeney's tenure, ABC made the decision to scrap All My Children and One Life to Live in favor of less expensive programming. Sweeney also made the decision to pull the plug on the 24-hour soap channel, SOAPnet.
ABC's primetime lineup has struggled in recent years, and the network has finished behind CBS, FOX, and NBC in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49 demographic for two consecutive years. It's on pace to finish fourth again this season.
Sweeney joined Disney in 1996 as the president of Disney Channel and vice president of Disney/ABC Cable Networks. Prior to joining the Disney group, Sweeney served as president and CEO of FX Networks, and spent twelve years at Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite in various executive positions.