A veteran cable television executive who was credited with the rise to prominence of a channel focused primarily on soap operas has died. Deadline.com reports that Deborah Blackwell, the former general manager of SOAPnet, died Friday in Virginia after battling Pick’s disease, a rare neurodegenerative disorder, for seven years. She was 63.
Blackwell ran SOAPnet from 2001 to 2007, building the network for Disney’s ABC Cable Networks group. Under her leadership the channel’s distribution reportedly grew to more than 67 million homes, with SOAPnet gaining same-day rights to NBC and CBS programming, along with soaps from owner ABC.
The channel also acquired prime-time shows under Blackwell’s leadership, including "One Tree Hill" and "The O.C." It added original programming as well, launching the scripted series "General Hospital: Night Shift" and the reality show "The Fashionista Diaries."
After Blackwell left the network, soap operas started to lose viewers, prompting Disney to rebrand the network as Disney Jr.