The Walt Disney Company announced today that it will combine all of the Company’s media sales and channel distribution into one organization under Justin Connolly, who has been named president, Media Distribution. Based in New York, Connolly will report to Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer and International segment.
“By combining all of our media, affiliate, content and syndication sales, and distribution efforts into the Direct-to-Consumer & International segment, we continue to transform the ways in which we distribute the great stories and characters created by The Walt Disney Company’s studios and media networks,” said Mayer. “I’ve had the great pleasure of working with Justin for many years and believe his experience makes him well-suited to drive Disney’s media sales and distribution efforts. He is a consummate professional, a fantastic dealmaker, and a great leader.”
“I am excited to have the opportunity to lead the industry’s best multi-platform sales and distribution teams,” said Connolly. “Through our combined efforts we will achieve the company’s vision for an even stronger, more agile organization that is better able to pivot and capitalize on the many opportunities present in today’s fast-changing and increasingly complex global marketplace.”
In this role, Connolly will continue to oversee all aspects of North American distribution, affiliate marketing and affiliate-related business operations for all the services provided by Disney and ESPN media networks including, among other services: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPNU, SEC Network, ACC Network, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, FX, FXX, FXM, National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild, and related WATCH, HDTV, video-on-demand, interactive television and retransmission consent agreements for The Walt Disney Company’s eight-owned ABC stations. He will also continue to have oversight of the ABC Affiliate Relations and Marketing team.
Additionally, to ensure alignment between our content licensing and direct-to-consumer priorities, Connolly will work closely with DTCI’s international content sales teams who now report directly into their respective regional leaders. To drive results and ensure effective execution of the Company’s media distribution strategies around the world, Connolly will have final approval on all content sales agreements for Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox Film, Fox Animation, Disneynature, ABC Studios, ABC Entertainment, National Geographic, FX Productions, 20th Century Fox Television, WABC, Freeform, Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior.
He will also spearhead global app distribution deals for The Walt Disney Company’s direct-to-consumer streaming services – including Disney+, ESPN+, and Movies Anywhere. Connolly will also be responsible for the distribution of film and television programming via home entertainment, broadcasting platforms, digital platforms, SVOD, and pay networks.
Connolly previously served as executive vice president, affiliate sales and marketing, Disney and ESPN Media Networks – overseeing all aspects of domestic distribution, ABC affiliate relations, affiliate marketing and affiliate-related business operations for all the services provided by Disney and ESPN media networks. In June 2017, he added oversight of ESPN’s strategy and business development teams to his portfolio.
Prior to that, Connolly served as senior vice president, college networks, and under his direction, SEC Network was the most successful network launch in cable history. Before working with the college networks, Connolly served as senior vice president, national accounts for Disney & ESPN Media Networks. He was responsible for all domestic distribution and licensing efforts for The Walt Disney Company’s linear networks, broadband and VOD content within the Media Networks Group.
He joined ESPN in 2003 and served in various capacities including director, ESPN strategy and operations where he helped ESPN with its long-term affiliate negotiations. In August 2004 he was promoted to vice president, distribution strategy. Prior to joining ESPN, Connolly worked in the corporate finance group for The Walt Disney Company’s corporate treasury department in Burbank, Calif.
Connolly, a Boston native, graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics in 1998 and earned an MBA from Harvard Business School in 2003.
This move makes complete sense for many reasons, first off it reduces duplication between divisions. One division now is dealing with the business side of the creative division and that is going to be a major benefit going forward with Hulu and Disney+ becoming global brands. Currently different countries have had different systems in place and this should hopefully start to see a change soon. And even internally, it should make it much easier for Disney to share its content on its own channels and streaming networks.
One key benefit will be that international channels will hopefully see a reduction in the delay in shows airing and less fragmentation of content.
But like with any of the big changes happening within Disney, it might take a while to sort out legacy issues.
What do you think?