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Anne Sweeney To Leave Disney TV After 18 Years

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BEVERLY HILLS, CA - NOVEMBER 20: Co-Chair of Disney Media Networks and President of Disney/ABC Television Group Anne Sweeney speaks onstage during the Girls Inc. Los Angeles Celebration Luncheon at Beverly Hills Hotel on November 20, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images) | Mike Windle via Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anne Sweeney, a top Disney television executive who helped bring ABC TV shows to Apple's iTunes digital store, is leaving the company in January 2015.

Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of the Disney/ABC Television Group, said in a statement Tuesday that she will pursue becoming a director of TV shows, after telling herself over the years to pursue her creative interests.

"I finally listened to that voice and thought, 'if not now, when?'"

The Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger said in a statement he applauded Sweeney "for knowing what she wants out of life and for having the courage to follow her dream."

An 18-year veteran of the company, Sweeney, 56, has been named repeatedly the "most powerful woman in entertainment" by The Hollywood Reporter. She was also considered a possible successor to Iger, who is set to step down as CEO in June 2016.

Sweeney oversees the ABC network, its eight owned TV stations, the TV studio and pay TV networks such as Disney Channel and Disney XD. She also manages the company's equity stakes in A+E Networks and online video service Hulu. She shares the chairmanship of Disney Media Networks with ESPN President John Skipper.

Skipper called Sweeney a "great partner and friend" and said he was thrilled for her.

The company will look for a replacement but no one was immediately named.

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