Deborah Blackwell, Former SoapNet Exec, Dies at 63

The now-defunct cable channel saw its distribution and series offerings grow dramatically under her watch.

Deborah Blackwell, who ran the Disney cable channel SoapNet from 2001-07, died Jan. 31 at her home in Staunton, Va., of frontotemporal degeneration, a dementia that attacks people in midlife. She was 63. 

Blackwell joined SoapNet when it was only airing reruns of such ABC soaps as All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hopsital. The channel was launched so that fans who worked during the day could watch their favorite daytime serials at night.

Under Blackwell as GM, the channel grew in distribution; secured rights from NBC and CBS to run their daytime soaps; launched original shows; and acquired rights to primetime series such as One Tree Hill, Melrose Place, Beverly Hills, 90210 and Dallas.

ABC Daytime president Brian Frons assumed her duties in 2007. SoapNet ceased operations in December.

Blackwell was born in the District of Columbia and raised in Maryland. She earned a B.A. in English literature from Brown University and an M.B.A. from Harvard.

Survivors include her mother Jean; brother and sister-in-law Richard and Theresa; sister and brother-in-law Dale and Charlie; niece Courtney; and nephew Joe.

Donations may be made to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration.

Memorial services will be held at 2 p.m. on Feb. 15 at Brightview Baldwin Park in Staunton, Va., and at 2 p.m. on March 30 at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.