Global 100: Anne Sweeney, Disney Media Networks

Business | Sun 19 Aug | Author – Business & Finance
Anne Sweeney

As Disney Media Networks co-chair, Anne Sweeney is one of the most influential people in the children’s entertainment industry – but that’s not all, folks.

Coming in at an impressive number 12 on the 2012 Fortune magazine ‘Most Powerful Women in Business’ list, it would be fair to say Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks, has made her mark in the entertainment world.

Sweeney (54), whose family hail from Kerry, Mayo and Meath also acts as president of Disney/ABC Television Group – which includes The Walt Disney Company’s global entertainment and news television properties, owned television stations group as well as radio and publishing businesses.

The daughter of educators – her mother taught primary school in upstate New York and her father was a school principal, Sweeney said she often felt like the black sheep of the family when she went into the entertainment business – but the niche she has found in children’s entertainment provides its compensations.

As president of Disney/ABC Television Group, Sweeney oversees ABC Studios, the ABC Owned Television Stations Group, and the ABC Television Network, which provides entertainment, news and children’s programming to viewers via more than 200 affiliated stations across the US. In 2006, she was recognised by the Producers Guild of America with the President’s Citation for her efforts on behalf of diversity across the Disney/ABC Television Group.

Sweeney also looks after Disney Channels Worldwide, a portfolio of 94 family entertainment channels, including Disney Channel; Disney XD; Playhouse Disney; Disney Cinemagic; Hungama; GXT; and Radio Disney brands. Sweeney is also responsible for cable networks ABC Family and SOAPnet, the company’s equity interest in A&E Television Networks, as well as Disney’s publishing imprint, Hyperion.

In 2005, Sweeney was amongst the key players driving the entry of the industry into the digital era when the Disney/ABC Television Group became the first media company to put television content on new platforms. The group was not only the first to leverage iTunes, but the first to introduce an ad-supported full episode player online –  and the first to deliver an application for the iPad. Under her leadership, the Group has managed to combine quality content with the strategic use of traditional and emerging distribution platforms to deliver news and entertainment worldwide. Between October 2000 and April 2004, Sweeney served as president of ABC Cable Networks Group and Disney Channels Worldwide, where under her leadership, Disney Channel more than quintupled its subscriber base. In April 1998, she also oversaw the successful launch of the 24-hour channel Toon Disney (now known as Disney XD), and later the launch of SOAPnet in January 2000.

Sweeney joined The Walt Disney Company in February 1996 as president of Disney Channel and executive vice-president of Disney/ABC Cable Networks. From 1993, she was chairman and CEO of FX Networks, Inc. During her time there, she presided over the launch of two basic cable networks, entertainment-focused FX and FXM: Movies from Fox, Hollywood’s first studio-based movie network. Before joining Fox, Sweeney spent 12 years at Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite in various executive positions, most recently as senior vice president of Program Enterprises.

While at Nickelodeon, she also oversaw international expansion, including the launch of the channel in the UK, resulting in a joint venture with British Sky Broadcasting.

Active in organisations both within and outside the television industry, Sweeney is a board member of A&E Television Networks, the Paley Center for Media, the American Film Institute and the Special Olympics.

Since assuming her current role as co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, Sweeney has repeatedly been named the Most Powerful Woman in Entertainment by The Hollywood Reporter, one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business by Fortune and one of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes. In 2008, she was honoured with the Broadcasters Foundation of America’s Golden Mike Award for Outstanding Contributions to Broadcasting.

In 2005, she was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame, and in 2004 received the Muse Award from New York Women in Film & Television.

In 1998, she was the recipient of the Women in Cable and Television organisation’s Advocate Leader Award from its Southern California chapter.

Sweeney holds a BA from The College of New Rochelle in New York and an Ed M degree from Harvard University.