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Walt Disney Co. Forms Integrated Global TV Distribution Division

The Walt Disney Co. announced today it has formed an integrated Global Television Distribution unit, following the announcement that Laurie Younger, president, Disney-ABC Worldwide Television, will retire at the end of her contract in January 2008.

The new unit will combine several existing distribution-focused departments under Ben Pyne, who has been named president, Global Distribution, Disney-ABC Worldwide Television & Disney Media Networks, reporting to Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks & president, Disney-ABC Television Group, and Alan Bergman, president, The Walt Disney Studios. For domestic responsibilities concerning ESPN, Pyne continues to report to Sean Bratches, evp, sales and marketing, ESPN and ABC Sports. He will also work closely with Andy Bird, president, Walt Disney International.

Pyne, who was president, Disney & ESPN Networks affiliate sales and marketing, will assume chief responsibility for the International distribution and sales of the Disney-produced portfolio of entertainment and news content. This includes all feature films, television series, kids programming, made-for-TV movies, miniseries, news documentaries, TV animation and direct-to video content -- and their distribution to all platforms, including the burgeoning video-on-demand (VOD) and broadband markets. He also oversees domestic distribution of television content handled by Disney-ABC Domestic Television, and assumes responsibility for the ABC Television Network's affiliate relations department.

"I've had the pleasure of working alongside Ben for the past 10 years, and there is no one better suited or more deserving of this enormous responsibility," said Sweeney. "He is a consummate professional, a fantastic dealmaker and a great manager."

Bergman added, "This is an exciting time for content distribution across various platforms, and we are confident that Ben will help keep Disney at the forefront of the industry."

In the new structure, David Preschlack has been promoted to evp, Disney & ESPN Networks affiliate sales and marketing, with oversight of Pyne's previous areas of responsibility, including direction of all affiliate distribution, affiliate relations, affiliate marketing and local ad sales for the U.S. cable and satellite networks of The Walt Disney Co.: ABC News Now, ABC Family, Disney Channel, SOAPnet, Toon Disney, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPN HD, ESPN2 HD and ESPNU. Preschlack will also be in charge of U.S. distribution of related HDTV, broadband, video-on-demand, subscription video-on-demand, interactive television, pay-per-view, Spanish-language and sports syndication products. Preschlack continues to report to Pyne and will work closely with Bratches on all ESPN-related affiliate matters.

"David is an exceptionally talented, strategically-minded executive with a rich history at the company," said Pyne. "He is the ideal person to take over and lead the distribution efforts for our portfolio of U.S. cable and satellite networks and related products. He has been a catalyst behind the many distribution gains and promotional initiatives that have made the Disney & ESPN Networks affiliate sales and marketing team an industry leader in recent years."

The out-going Younger will assist in transitioning to the new structure.

Commenting on her retirement, Sweeney and Dick Cook, chairman, The Walt Disney Studios, said, "For the past two decades, Laurie has worked tirelessly on behalf of The Walt Disney Co., and, while it pains us to see her go, we applaud her decision and wish her all the best going forward."

Younger added, "This decision was not arrived at lightly, nor is it one that comes without some real sadness regarding the amazing people I'm leaving behind. For 20-plus years, I have had the privilege of touching every aspect of the television business, and now seems the appropriate time to start the next chapter and explore some new avenues."