ESPN, ABC Cable Nets Merge Affiliate Sales

NEW YORK ESPN and ABC Cable Networks Group are merging their affiliate sales and marketing teams into one entity under the direction of Sean Bratches, a 16-year ESPN veteran.

Bratches, who has been executive vice president, affiliate sales and marketing since 2001 at ESPN in Bristol, Conn., will be president of the new unit, Disney and ESPN Networks Affiliate Sales and Marketing, when it launches on October 1.

The new affiliate structure will include all affiliate distribution, relations and marketing as well as local ad sales for the domestic cable and satellite networks of the Walt Disney Co. which include: ABC Family, Disney Channel, SOAPnet, Toon Disney, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN HD.

The new group will also oversee the domestic distribution of HDTV, broadband, video-on-demand, interactive TV, pay-per-view, and sports syndication products.

As part of the new affiliate organization, Ben Pyne, ABC Cable Networks Group senior vp of affiliate sales and marketing, was promoted to executive vp. At the same time, ABC Cable Networks Group will be named Disney ABC Cable Networks Group.

“We have been looking for ways to maximize the value of [our cable entertainment and sports] assets for our customers,” said Anne Sweeney, co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and president, Disney-ABC Television. “This is a strong step in that direction.”