Alan Wagner, 76, First President of the Disney Channel, Is Dead

The New York Times

Alan Wagner, a former CBS programming executive who became the first president of the Disney Channel, has died in Manhattan, where he lived. He was 76.

The death was confirmed by his daughter Susan.

Earlier in Mr. Wagner's career he was host of a long-running radio show, "Living Opera," on WNYC.

As East Coast vice president of programming at CBS from 1976 to 1982, Mr. Wagner was in charge of developing and overseeing hit shows like "All in the Family," "Kojak," "M*A*S*H," "The Bob Newhart Show," "The Waltons" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

In 1982 the Walt Disney Company hired Mr. Wagner to oversee the development of what was then a novel idea, a cable channel dedicated to children and family programming. With a $100 million budget, he recruited a staff of programmers to create new shows as well as to draw from Disney's extensive library of films and programs.

The Disney Channel, starting as a 16-hour-a-day cable service, had its premiere in April 1983. Mr. Wagner was president for about a year.

It could be said that Mr. Wagner got his start in television in 1956 when, as a member of a troupe of United States Navy seamen, he did a stand-up comedy bit on "The Ed Sullivan Show."In 1957 he also found an outlet for his primary passion, opera: He was hired as host of "Living Opera," a two-hour Sunday morning program on WNYC that featured excerpts from recordings, interviews with music personalities and Mr. Wagner's backstage stories. He also wrote a selection of such anecdotes, "Prima Donnas and Other Wild Beasts" (Argonaut Books, 1961).

Mr. Wagner continued as host of the show until 1968, even while working at CBS.

Alan Cyril Wagner was born in Manhattan on Oct. 1, 1931, and received bachelor's and master's degrees from Columbia.

Besides his daughter Susan, of Manhattan, Mr. Wagner is survived by his wife of 51 years, the former Martha Dreyfus; another daughter, Elizabeth, also of Manhattan; a son, David, of Virginia Beach; and five grandchildren.