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UPDATE 1-Disney TV executive Sweeney to leave company in January 2015

LOS ANGELES, March 11 (Reuters) - Anne Sweeney, the president of Walt Disney Co's Disney/ABC Television Group, will leave the company in January 2015 to pursue a career in television directing, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

Sweeney, also co-chair of Disney Media Networks, oversees the ABC broadcast network and cable networks including the Disney Channels and ABC Family. She joined Disney in 1996.

Disney said Sweeney helped lead the company into digital entertainment as it became the major media company to put TV content on new platforms such as Apple Inc's iTunes and through an app for iPad.

Sweeney said she wanted to explore a more creative job in the television business.

"There has always been a nagging voice in the back of my head pushing me to step out of the comfort zone of the executive ranks and more directly into the creative arena that enticed me to TV in the first place," she said in a statement. "I finally listened to that voice and thought, 'If not now, when?"'

Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, said he had offered Sweeney a multi-year contract extension. "She shocked me by saying she didn't really want to go long, that she was thinking about her life and exploring other things," he said.

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