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Laura Gentile Promoted at Disney Networks Division

Disney Media Entertainment & Distribution Networks promoted Laura Gentile to executive VP, commercial marketing, networks and ESPN, a new position, as president Debra O’Connell builds her executive team.

Laura Gentile Disney

Laura Gentile (Image credit: The Walt Disney Co.)

Disney created the media and entertainment distribution group in October.

O'Connell, who had been president and general manager of WABC-TV, New York, was named head of its network division in November.

The unit also brought in Nancy Lee as senior VP of commercial marketing & integrated planning.

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Gentile had been senior VP of marketing & social media at ESPN. She will report to both O'Connell and Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN and sports content for Disney.

Debra O'Connell Disney

Debra O'Connell (Image credit: The Walt Disney Co.)

“Jimmy and I are both delighted to have such a capable and creative executive in Laura who can lead across all of these critical areas of our business," O'Connell said in an internal announcement.

“Those of you who know Laura, know that she is a strategic marketer who approaches her work with passion and commitment. Over the course of her career at ESPN, she has led truly innovative and impactful marketing campaigns – including the creation of ESPN’s transcendent 'There’s No Place Like Sports' brand campaign and the long-running and iconic 'This is SportsCenter'– and creative across every major sports franchise. Laura has also been, and continues to be, a leading champion for women’s sports.”

Lee had been senior VP and chief of staff for Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger and had been a part of Disney’s corporate strategy team. In her new post with the marketing team, Lee will report to Gentile and oversee brand marketing & synergy, branded content, marketing operations and the Disney Movie Insiders platform.

Nancy Lee Disney

Nancy Lee (Image credit: The Walt Disney Co.)

Lee will also report directly to O'Connell to oversee integrated planning and serve as Iger’s chief of staff.

Also reporting to Gentile will be David Kite, senior VP, product management and distribution strategy.

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The new execs join the other members of the DMED Networks team, including Sean Cocchia, who heads business operating for Disney and National Geographic Channels and Franchise Management; David Miller, who leads the business operations functions of National Geographic Media, which includes the P&L, strategy, and subscriber experience for the print and digital experiences of their iconic magazines; Chuck Saftler, the former FX Networks exec who now heads up Business Operations for ABC, Freeform and FX Networks and Russell Wolff, who is in charge of business operations for ESPN's linear networks. He's also executive VP and GM of of ESPN Plus.

O'Connell also leads the ABC Owned Stations.

Jon Lafayette
Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.