Lloyd Braun, the corporate lawyer-turned ABC Television boss, namesake of a fictional psychotic character in hit comedy Seinfeld (formerly aired on rival network NBC), is clearing his desk, according to a report in Hollywood parish magazine Daily Variety.

Braun, with two years unexpired on his contract, is set for a handsome payoff from parent corporation Disney, although few think his golden goodbye will be in the same ballpark as that of former Disney president Michael Ovitz, who pocketed $138 million (€114.45m; £72.30m) when he walked the platinum plank in 1997 [WAMN: 01-Mar-04].

Braun, who joined ABC in 1999 and moved into the chairman's hotseat three years later, is now paying the price (or should that be reaping the benefit?) of failure to lift the nation's least popular major network out of its ratings mire.

The network's lackluster performance is a highly sensitive issue back at Mouse HQ, being one of the sticks currently used by angry shareholders to belabour Disney ceo Michael Eisner. ABC has struggled in the ratings since being absorbed into the Magic Kingdom in 1995 for a consideration of $19 billion.

Waiting off-camera, reports Daily Variety, is Anne Sweeney, president of the ABC Cable Networks Group, who is expected to add the network portfolio to her existing duties. Eight years with Disney, Sweeney currently oversees the group's non-sport cable properties, including Disney Channel, Toon Disney and ABC Family.

She has no easy task ahead. As the 2003/2004 season draws to a close, ABC ranks last among the four major networks in three critical sectors: households; total viewers; and adults 18-49, the demographic most sought by advertisers. So far this season, ABC's top scripted series, 8 Simple Rules, languishes at number 37 in the ratings, reports Nielsen Media Research.

Data sourced from: The Washington Post Online; additional content by WARC staff