Disney Merges Cable Sales

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The Walt Disney Co. is merging the ESPN and ABC Cable Networks Group affiliate-sales and marketing operations, with an ESPN executive coming out on top.

The new division, which has been rechristened the Disney ABC Cable Networks Group, will be headed by Brian Sean Bratches, formerly ESPN's EVP, affiliate sales and marketing, as president of the group.

ABC Cable Networks' top sales executive, Ben Payne, who has been SVP, affiliate sales and marketing, will be EVP for the combined group, reporting to Bratches.

Bratches, in turn, reports to two people, George Bodenheimer and Anne Sweeney, co-chairmen of the Media Networks Group.

The pair will oversee marketing and local ad sales for ABC Family, Disney Channel, SOAPnet, Toon Disney, the ESPN networks, as well as distribution of related products, including video-on-demand (VOD), subscription VOD, interactive TV, pay-per-view, HDTV, broadband and syndicated sports product.

The mergered structure doesn't take effect until Oct. 1