Disney restructures TV production & distribution to focus on streaming

Kareem Daniel

Disney has unveiled an extensive restructure of its media and entertainment businesses, with a new distribution division and revamped content groups now focused on feeding its streaming operations.

The changes come as Disney fights plummeting revenues at its theme parks and movie divisions, and follows similar moves by companies including NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia that have seen cuts made as streaming takes centre stage.

Peter Rice

Streaming segue for content

Now, with over 100 million people subscribed to services like Disney+ and Hulu globally, the company has said that it will reorganise to separate the development and production of programming from distribution.

Disney’s content groups for studios, general entertainment and sports will be led by existing execs. Alan Horn and Alan Bergman, who had helmed movies, become chairmen of Disney Studios; Peter Rice, who has overseen TV production since 2018, leads general entertainment; and ESPN chief James Pitaro heads up sports.

Horn and Bergman will create theatrical and episodic programming for cinema and Disney’s other streamers; former Fox exec Rice will focus on general entertainment content for the streamers and networks; and Pitaro will oversee live coverage and unscripted sports series for ESPN+ and ABC.

This new model, the Mouse House said, would allow it to be more responsive to consumer demands.

Distribution & streaming drive

The content divisions will all feed content into a single, global Media and Entertainment Distribution group that will be headed by Kareen Daniel, who was previously president of consumer products, games and publishing. Daniel has served at Disney for 14 years in a number of roles including president of Walt Disney Imagineering Operations.

The new division will oversee all management and distribution, as well as operation of the streamers – including Disney+ and Hulu – and Disney’s US networks. It will work closely with the content teams for programming, as well as marketing.

All five of Horn, Bergman, Rice, Pitaro and Daniel will report into CEO Bob Chapek.

Rebecca Campbell

Disney+ & international

The changes, which will be further explained at an investors day planned 10 December, move Disney’s streaming operations even further to the centre of its operations.

They will also see Rebecca Campbell, who took up her role in charge of Disney+ following Kevin Mayer’s short-lived move to TikTok, continue to serve as chairman of international operations and direct-to-consumer.

Campbell has responsibility for coordinating and integrating activities in different markets and will report into Daniel for Disney+ and directly to Chapek for international operations.

Disney’s parks, experiences and products segment will remain unchanged under Josh D’Amaro.

Meanwhile former CEO Bob Iger will also continue as executive chairman, overseeing the company’s creative decision making.

‘More effective & nimble’

Chapek said: “Given the incredible success of Disney+ and our plans to accelerate our direct-to-consumer business, we are strategically positioning our company to more effectively support our growth strategy and increase shareholder value.

“Managing content creation distinct from distribution will allow us to be more effective and nimble in making the content consumers want most, delivered in the way they prefer to consume it.

“Our creative teams will concentrate on what they do best – making world-class, franchise-based content – while our newly centralised global distribution team will focus on delivering and monetising that content in the most optimal way across all platforms, including Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+ and the coming Star international streaming service.”

The announcement was made days after activist investor Daniel Loeb urged Disney to forgo a dividend payment – estimated at $3bn annually – and instead invest it in streaming, a statement which has evidently been heard by Disney.

Daniel, the new distribution chief, said: “I’m honoured to be able to lead this new organisation during such a pivotal and exciting time for our Company, and I’m grateful to Bob for giving me the opportunity.”

News of the restructure saw Disney’s shares jump up by 5%, though the company said that it will only start reporting under this structure in Q1 2021.

Tags: Disney, Hulu

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