Disney Names Debra OConnell President, News Group and Networks

By Mark Mwachiro 

Profile of ABC News' Debra OConnell

Disney Entertainment co-chairman Dana Walden announced on Wednesday that Debra OConnell has been promoted to president, news group and networks.

In this newly created position, OConnell will oversee ABC News, ABC Owned Television Stations and P&L responsibilities across Disney’s multiplatform linear entertainment networks, including ABC broadcast network, Disney Channels, FX Networks, Freeform and National Geographic Channels.

According to Disney, the newly formed news group and networks unit places key businesses and operations in a single vertical, which OConnell will supervise to better enable synergy and collaboration.


“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,” said Walden. “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.”

Kim Godwin, president of ABC News, and Chad Matthews, president, ABC Owned Television Stations, will now report to OConnell.

“I consider it a privilege to advocate for the best networks, the best news organization and the best stations in the world, and thank Dana for her leadership and trust,” said OConnell. “I’m excited to work with Kim, Chad and these exceptional teams on strategies to superserve our viewers for years to come.”

Godwin, whose position within the Disney hierarchy has recently come under scrutiny, sent a note to staffers regarding this recent announcement, saying, “To officially join ABC News with our owned television stations, working with Chad Matthews and under Debra’s leadership, will allow us 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.”

A 27-year Disney veteran, OConnell was most recently the president, networks and television business operations for Disney Entertainment Television. Before 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.

OConnell was also the executive vice president, sales and marketing, of Disney|ABC’s consolidated advertising sales group; president, national TV sales, ABC Owned Television Stations; and vice president of marketing at WABC-TV.