Disney cuts Hulu & Freeform execs as production operations merged & creative acquisitions unit closed

Disney has begun laying off staff as part of its “strategic realignment”, with production operations across Disney TV Studios, Hulu, FX and Freeform now falling under Carol Turner and the creative acquisitions division closed.

Hulu’s SVP of production, Mark Levenstein, and Freeform’s SVP of production management & operations, Jayne Bieber, are among the casualties as Disney CEO Bob Iger begins to implement the plans he announced last month, to cut 7,000 jobs, slash $3bn from content spend and overhauling content operations.

Turner, EVP and head of production for ABC Signature, has expanded her remit to include network and platform production for scripted TV across Disney Entertainment.

Nissa Diederich, 20th Television EVP and head of production, and Nick Lombardo, SVP and head of production for FX, will now report to Turner, who will in turn report to Eric Schrier, president of Disney TV Studios & global original television strategy for Disney General Entertainment.

Disney Television Studios is also closing down its creative acquisitions department, which was launched in 2021 to secure the rights to books, podcasts and other IP that could be developed by ABC Signature and 20th Television into shows for Disney platforms.

As a result, Elizabeth Newman, VP of development, who was based at 20th Television and ran the unit, is leaving the company and the department will be closed with its operations taken on by the studios.

Iger confirmed in a memo to staff that these “workforce reductions” are just the first of three rounds of lay-offs, with “several thousand more staff reductions” to follow in April, followed by a final round of cuts at before the beginning of summer to reach the 7,000-job target.

“In tough moments, we must always do what is required to ensure Disney can continue delivering exceptional entertainment to audiences and guests around the world – now, and long into the future,” wrote Iger.

The cuts come after the Mouse House reinstated Bob Iger as CEO, replacing the ousted Bob Chapek in November, following a Q4 earnings call in which Disney revealed its DTC losses had almost touched $1.5bn, up from $1.1bn in Q3.

Iger is looking to reduce the Disney workforce by 3.5%, in a move designed to placate Wall Street discontent, alongside a wholesale shift in strategy on the content side, including a return to third-party sales.

His changes have already seen execs including Rebecca Campbell, former chairman of international content & operations, exit the company as he unveiled a new structure, made up of its parks & experiences businesses, a separate ESPN unit, and TV & film arm Disney Entertainment, led by Dana Walden and Alan Bergman.

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