Debra OConnell to Oversee News at Disney

Debra OConnell to Oversee News at Disney

The Walt Disney Company announced on Wednesday that a longtime executive at the company, Debra OConnell, would become the president of a newly created division that will include ABC News and the company’s local stations.

The move, in effect, puts Ms. OConnell in charge of ABC News’s signature properties, including “Good Morning America” and “World News Tonight.” Kim Godwin, the ABC News president since 2021, will remain in her role — executives said on Wednesday that she had signed a new contract — but with an important caveat: She will now report to Ms. OConnell.

“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,” Dana Walden, a co-chairman of Disney Entertainment, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Debra OConnell will become the president of a newly created division that will include ABC News and the company’s local stations.Credit…Randy Shropshire/Variety, via Getty Images

The reorganization mirrors what has taken place at other network news divisions. Several executives at NBC News report to Cesar Conde, the chairman of the so-called NBCUniversal news group, a division that includes local news and cable networks like MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo. Wendy McMahon, the president of CBS News, also oversees local stations.

In appointing Ms. OConnell to the new position, Disney has added an executive layer between Ms. Walden and Ms. Godwin, who has had a bit of a rocky tenure since taking over as head of ABC News in 2021.

Last year, ABC News parted ways with the “GMA3” anchors T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach, concluding a weekslong tabloid spectacle after it had been revealed that the anchors were romantically involved. Ms. Godwin initially kept the two on the air — only to reverse course several days later. Mr. Holmes and Ms. Robach left the network a couple of months later.

“Good Morning America” remains the most-watched morning news show but has seen ratings decline among adults younger than 54 — the key metric for advertisers — by 21 percent since September, steeper than either “Today” or “CBS Mornings,” according to Nielsen. The third-place CBS morning show has also had a handful of ratings wins over “G.M.A.” since September, an unusual development.

In a note to employees, Ms. Godwin said the new executive structure would “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,” Ms. Godwin wrote.

In a separate memo to employees, Ms. OConnell praised ABC News’s “world-class reporting.”

“I’d like to take this opportunity to share how excited I am to be bringing ABC News, the ABC-owned stations and our networks teams together as one organization,” she wrote.

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Chriss B. Cornell

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