‘My whole career has been about connecting with kids,’ says Geraldine Laybourne in explanation of her move to step down as president of Disney/ABC Cable Networks to start her own Internet and television media company. Admitting that the announcement on May 29 was vague in terms of exactly what form Laybourne’s new company would take, she explained that the company’s trademark and initial contracts are still in progress. She did report, however, that ABC is one of the firm’s first investors and clients.
‘In the new media landscape, there are media that are much more connected with kids [than TV],’ notes Laybourne. ‘We are capable of feedback through the Internet with kids and women-to do kid-generated [product] using the voices of kids.’ Laybourne says that her company will be less of an entertainment company and more of an information-oriented resource-’an interactive brand about doing things. A lot of what we do will originate on the Internet and end up as TV shows,’ she says. ‘The end goal is to produce product in a converged world.’
Laybourne’s announcement sent ripples through the entertainment industry, where she is widely touted as one of the foremost experts on establishing kids brands. In the role of president of Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, she was instrumental in the launch of Nickelodeon in 1980.
Laybourne’s most recent coup was leading the new Disney’s One Saturday Morning block on ABC to the top of the Saturday morning charts in less than one year.
Speculation about the causes of Laybourne’s exit from Disney/ABC primarily center around a number of projects she spearheaded at the studio that never made it to the screen, including the ABZ educational network for kids. The executive’s sudden availability has sparked numerous offers from the industry, according to Laybourne. ‘We’ve already received calls from every major entertainment company,’ she says.
At press time, according to a source at ABC, no replacement has been announced by the network.