The departure of Carolina Lightcap, president of Disney Channels Worldwide, comes on the heels of the abrupt resignation last week of Disney Consumer Products Chairman Andy Mooney.
Taking over for Lightcap is Disney Channel veteran Gary Marsh, who was president of entertainment and chief creative officer for Disney Channels Worldwide. He played a key role in developing such hit shows as “Hannah Montana,” “Wizards of Waverly Place” and “Phineas and Ferb,” as well as top-rated cable TV movies “High School Musical” and “Lemonade Mouth.”
In a statement announcing Marsh’s promotion, Disney gave no reason for Lightcap’s resignation. During the last two years, the domestic Disney Channel grew its ratings 9% in the all-important demographic of kids ages 6 to 14. The channel’s total viewership rose too, according to Nielsen.
However, people close to the company said there were issues regarding Lightcap’s management style. She was considered a micromanager who, despite the global scope of her responsibilities, would, for example, delve into giving script revisions on hit shows, according to two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Lightcap, who was tapped in November 2009 to succeed Rich Ross after he left Disney Channels Worldwide to run Walt Disney Studios, was an unexpected choice for the high-profile post overseeing a network that served as a launching pad for several new “tween” brands. Although she had been at Disney since 2000, she spent most of her time overseeing the marketing and programming of the company’s Latin American cable operations.
When Lightcap was promoted, Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks, said Lightcap’s “wealth of experience, leadership acumen, and programming, marketing and franchise building skills make her the ideal executive to lead Disney Channels Worldwide into the future.”
Lightcap did not respond to a request for an interview, but in an email to employees Thursday said she thought the “timing was perfect to move on to my next challenge.” Sweeney said in a statement that the company was “sorry that Carolina decided to leave us.”
Many in the industry considered Marsh the obvious successor to Ross, but at the time he wanted to focus on what he’d done so well: running the Disney Channels’ entertainment side.
“Gary Marsh has been the driving creative force behind Disney Channels’ remarkable growth for the past 15-plus years,” Sweeney said in a statement. “He not only understands the zeitgeist of kids’ culture, he helped create it.”
Marsh will now be responsible for both programming and business operations for Disney Channels Worldwide, which reaches into 169 countries. In addition to Disney Channel, he will oversee Disney XD, a channel aimed at young boys; Disney Junior, a 24-hour channel for pre-schoolers that launches in February; and Radio Disney.
Disney Channel has long been one of the jewels of the Walt Disney Co. empire. This year, it is expected to take in $1.15 billion in operating revenue, consulting firm SNL Kagan said. Of that, more than $650 million is profit. It is one of the most valuable and most expensive cable channels. Cable and satellite companies pay fees of more than 90 cents per subscriber per month for the right to carry the channel, SNL Kagan said.
Staff writer Meg James contributed to this report.