The Walt Disney Company announced a broad structural reorganization of its media and entertainment businesses Monday, in a move to ramp up and streamline its direct-to-consumer strategy. That involves the creation of the new Media and Entertainment Distribution group, which will oversee all content monetization and streaming operations. Kareem Daniel, most recently president of consumer products, games and publishing at Disney, will lead the unit.
The move comes just under a year after the launch of Disney Plus, which has since surpassed the 60 million subscriber mark.
Under the new structure, the studios will continue to develop and produce originals for Disney’s streaming services — which include Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus — and legacy platforms. Distribution and commercialization will now be centralized under the Media and Entertainment Distribution group.
“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,” said CEO Bob Chapek in a statement. “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 centralized global distribution team will focus on delivering and monetizing that content in the most optimal way across all platforms, including Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+ and the coming Star international streaming service.”
Three groups will be responsible for producing content for film, linear TV and streaming services: studios, general entertainment and sports, under the purview of Alan F. Horn and Alan Bergman, Peter Rice, and James Pitaro. The reorganization is effective immediately, and Disney’s financial reporting will switch to the new structure in Q1 of fiscal 2021.
Daniel’s division will be responsible for P&L management, distribution, operations, sales, advertising, data and technology functions globally for Disney’s content production, in addition to managing operations for Disney’s streamers and U.S. TV networks.
The reorganization means that top leadership at studios, general entertainment and sports remains the same, with Alan Horn and Alan Bergman serving as chairman of studios content, Peter Rice as chairman of general entertainment content and James Pitaro as chairman of ESPN and sports content. All five will report directly to Chapek.
The studios division will lead creation of branded theatrical and episodic content based on Disney’s franchises, and oversee creation at Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures. Rice’s division will focus on general entertainment episodic and original long-form content, such as those created by 20th Television, ABC Signature and Touchstone Television, ABC News, Disney Channels, Freeform, FX, and National Geographic. Pitaro will continue to oversee ESPN’s live sports programing, sports news, and original and unscripted sports content for cablers, ESPN Plus and ABC.
Disney’s parks, experiences and products unit continues to be headed up by Josh D’Amaro. Rebecca Campbell continues to chair international operations and direct-to-consumer — but those two businesses will no longer be managed together. In matters international, Campbell will report to Chapek. In matters related to the streaming space, she will report to Daniel.
Variety has additionally learned that Ricky Strauss, most recently Disney Plus’ content and marketing head, has been named head of curation for Disney Plus and Hulu.
“I’m honored to be able to lead this new organization during such a pivotal and exciting time for our Company, and I’m grateful to Bob for giving me the opportunity,” said Daniel. “It’s a tremendous privilege to work with the talented and dedicated teams that will comprise this group, and I look forward to a close collaboration with the outstanding and incredibly successful team of creative content leaders at the Company, as together we build on the success we’ve already achieved in our DTC and legacy distribution business.”
Daniel, who has been at Disney for 14 years, has a history of leadership roles across the company. Outside of consumer products, games and publishing, he has also spent time in studio distribution and Walt Disney Imagineering — prior to his most recent role, Daniel served as president of Walt Disney Imagineering operations, production creation, publishing and games. There, he oversaw the transformation of IP into parks and resorts properties such as “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, as well as Toy Story Land at Diseny World and Shanghai Disneyland.
Chapek called Daniel an “an exceptionally talented, innovative and forward-looking leader, with a strong track record for developing and implementing successful global content distribution and commercialization strategies.” He added that as the company looks to grow its direct-to-consumer businesses, “delivering and monetizing our great content in the most optimal way possible” will be of critical importance.
“His wealth of experience will enable him to effectively bring together the Company’s distribution, advertising, marketing and sales functions, thereby creating a distribution powerhouse that will serve all of Disney’s media and entertainment businesses,” said Chapek.
Look for more details on Disney’s direct-to-consumer strategies on its virtually held investor day on Dec. 10.
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