Walt Disney Television Chairman Peter Rice Holds Town Meeting To Calm Job Loss Fears
Since Disney completed its purchase of 21st Century Fox last week, there has been some stressful times for all the staff now under Disney, especially following large job cuts on the movie side of the business, but also in the television distribution and sales departments. This was due to duplication of roles between Disney and 21st Century Fox.
Today, Walt Disney Television chairman Peter Rice spoke to staff during a hourlong town hall meeting at the Disney lot, which was also live streamed to employees located elsewhere.
During the meeting he downplayed the threat of massive layoffs to the television divisions, saying that there was some duplication between some roles, but did not elaborate when cuts may be coming.
One of the key reasons why there wasn’t going to be as many cuts as expected was, as Peter Rice explained is because Disney and 21st Century Fox together are
“a massive creative engine providing entertainment, news and information to fuel the company’s networks, streaming platforms and direct-to-consumer service.”
With the launch of Disney+ coming this year, plus with so many traditional channels to fill, plus its other streaming service, Hulu, there is a lot of demand within the Disney-Fox portfolio, especially for high-quality TV content. Peter Rice indicated during the town hall that it makes no sense to downscale TV development and production but instead they could expand even further.
One of the key assets Disney wanted from 21st Century Fox was the production side of the business to ramp up creation on new shows and movies for its streaming services to combat its competition, like Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Warner and Comcast.
During the town hall meeting, he said that the company has a head start in the streaming wars with Hulu, since it is now majority owned by Disney, and referenced remarks by Disney’s Bob Iger and Kevin Mayer that the company is interested in taking full control of the streaming platform but he would not elaborate on that.
Other topics brought up during the meeting included confirmation that there are no plans to rebrand FX, plus that its animation is now in the mix for its other networks. It should be noted that from next month, Family Guy will start airing in the evenings on the Freeform channel, so content is already starting to be spread around the networks.
He also mentioned how there are vast differences in the kid-friendly content that is produced by the Disney Channels teams and the edgy material that comes from the FX Networks team.
My Take: This seems like a good effort from the new chairman to try to calm down fears over the looming job cuts. The TV side of the business is the easiest and cheapest way for Disney to fill out its channels and streaming platforms including Disney+. They want to create new content and didn’t buy 21st Century Fox out to close it down, they want to ramp up production. Unfortunately there will be some job losses because of duplication, but that will be more on the office side, since content isn’t being sold to other channels and streaming services like it used to be, since shows are being kept in-house.