Walt Disney Television is set to undergo a major change, as Deadline has revealed that the chairman of Disney General Entertainment Content, Peter Rice, has been fired. Nothing has been officially announced, but it’s being reported that it was a business decision and didn’t have anything to do with any personal behaviour.
Peter Rice took the role following Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Studios and had been leading the TV division since taking over. His job involves creating original entertainment and news programming for The Walt Disney Company’s streaming platforms Disney+, Hulu and Star, and its cable and broadcast network, with many studios including 20th Television, ABC Entertainment, ABC News, ABC Signature, Disney Branded Television, Freeform, FX, Hulu Originals, National Geographic and Onyx Collective, making content for those platforms and networks.
It’s been revealed that Dana Walden, who is currently the Chairman of Entertainment for Walt Disney Television, will be taking over the role.
This continues the high-level executive restructuring that has been taking place at Walt Disney since Bob Chapek took over from Bob Iger as the CEO. There has also been lots of speculation that Peter Rice was being lined up to replace Bob Chapek as CEO.
There have been rumours that Peter Rice was going to be moving to Warner Bros Discovery, but when it was revealed that Warner Bros Discovery chief David Zaslav wanted executives to report directly to him, Peter Rice pulled himself out of the running.
Peter Rice signed a new contract with Disney last year that runs until 2024, which will be paid.
UPDATE: Disney has now released the following statement:
The Walt Disney Company has named Dana Walden as Chairman, Disney General Entertainment Content, it was announced today by Bob Chapek, Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. In this role, Walden will lead the company’s general entertainment content engine that creates original entertainment and news programming for Disney’s streaming platforms and its cable and broadcast networks. She will have oversight of ABC Entertainment, ABC News, Disney Branded Television, Disney Television Studios, Freeform, FX, Hulu Originals, National Geographic Content and Onyx Collective. Walden previously served as Chairman, Entertainment, Walt Disney Television and succeeds Peter Rice, who is leaving the company. Her appointment is effective immediately, and she will report directly to Chapek.
“Dana is a dynamic, collaborative leader and cultural force who in just three years has transformed our television business into a content powerhouse that consistently delivers the entertainment audiences crave,” Chapek said. “Her well-earned reputation for championing creative talent and developing programming that truly captures the cultural zeitgeist has resulted in hit after hit, from ABC’s Abbott Elementary and Onyx Collective’s Academy Award-winning Summer of Soul, to Hulu Originals like Only Murders in the Building, Dopesick, The Dropout and The Kardashians. She and Peter have worked closely together for years to create the best programming in the industry, and I can think of no one better than Dana to lead Disney General Entertainment to even greater heights.”
“It is an incredible honor to be asked to lead this amazingly talented team—they are truly the absolute best in every respect—and I am grateful to Bob for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Walden said. “Disney General Entertainment’s culture of creative excellence and originality has made us home to many of the most talented creators in the business. I am humbled to lead this team, and I am confident that together, we will continue to build on the foundation of culture-defining entertainment we have achieved so far.”
Walden joined Disney in 2019 with the company’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox, and in her role leading Entertainment for Walt Disney Television, she oversaw Disney Television Studios (20th Television, ABC Signature, 20th Television Animation and Walt Disney Television Alternative), the original entertainment slates and content marketing for ABC, Freeform, Hulu Originals and Onyx Collective.
Under Walden’s leadership, ABC has been the No. 1 entertainment network for three consecutive seasons—the first time that has happened in 25 years. And since assuming leadership of the Hulu Originals slate of series in 2019, the streamer has seen record viewership for the aforementioned hits, as well as The Handmaid’s Tale, Little Fires Everywhere and Nine Perfect Strangers.
At Disney Television Studios, Walden has overseen the production of such iconic and hit series as Grey’s Anatomy, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers and 9-1-1. The areas under her oversight have collectively earned an impressive 270 Emmy® nominations and 23 wins since she joined Disney.
Walden previously served as chairman and CEO of Fox Television Group, which included Fox Broadcasting Company, 20th Century Fox Television, Fox 21 Television Studios, Fox Consumer Products and the syndication supplier, 20th Television. In the four years she oversaw Fox Broadcasting Company, she took the network from fourth place to first.
During her 25 years at 21st Century Fox, the studios overseen by Walden amassed 184 Emmy® wins, 29 Golden Globes®, 17 Screen Actors Guild Awards and 24 Peabody Awards and Humanitas Prizes. Additionally, Walden was responsible for numerous No. 1 broadcast hits like This Is Us, Empire and Glee, to multiple Emmy Award winners Modern Family, Homeland, Ally McBeal, Arrested Development, The Practice and Boston Legal. Other landmark series overseen by Walden include 24, How I Met Your Mother, New Girl and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She has also overseen along with John Landgraf the long and successful partnership between 20th Television and FX and FX Productions, resulting in The Americans, Sons of Anarchy, Pose, American Horror Story and the American Crime Story franchise.
In 2021, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business. She has received the National Association of Television Program Executive’s Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award and was named MIPCOM’s Personality of the Year. In 2013, she was inducted into Broadcasting & Cable’s Television Hall of Fame. She has been named Showman of the Year by Variety, Television Showman of the Year by the Publicists of the International Cinematographers Guild, and Executive of the Year in 2019 by The Hollywood Reporter.
Walden began her career at the public relations firm Bender, Goldman & Helper. At Fox, she rose through the ranks in roles that ranged from communications to programming, ultimately serving as executive vice president of Drama before being named head of the studio in 1999. She sits on the board of directors for Live Nation Entertainment and UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. Additionally, she is a member of USC’s President’s Leadership Council and the President’s Circle of the NAACP.