The Walt Disney Company has announced that it is going to be making streaming its primary focus and is restructuring its media and entertainment divisions, in light of the rapid success of Disney+. With the Coronavirus causing massive problems for its theme parks, cruise line and theatrical businesses, streaming will now be the most important part of the companies business and will be accelerating its direct-to-consumer strategy.
Under the new structure, Disney’s world-class creative engines will focus on developing and producing original content for the Company’s streaming services, as well as for legacy platforms, while distribution and commercialization activities will be centralized into a single, global Media and Entertainment Distribution organization. The new Media and Entertainment Distribution group will be responsible for all monetization of content—both distribution and ad sales—and will oversee operations of the Company’s streaming services. It will also have sole P&L accountability for Disney’s media and entertainment businesses.
In a statement, Bob Chapek said:
“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. 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.”
The creation of content will be managed in three distinct groups—Studios, General Entertainment, and Sports—headed by current leaders Alan F. Horn and Alan Bergman, Peter Rice, and James Pitaro. The Media and Entertainment Distribution group will be headed by Kareem Daniel, formerly President, Consumer Products, Games and Publishing. All five leaders will report directly to Bob Chapek, Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. Disney Parks, Experiences and Products will continue to operate under its existing structure, led by Josh D’Amaro, Chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, who continues to report to Mr. Chapek. Rebecca Campbell will serve as Chairman, International Operations and Direct-to-Consumer. Bob Iger, in his role as Executive Chairman, will continue to direct the Company’s creative endeavors.
Under the new structure, the Company’s three content groups will be responsible and accountable for producing and delivering content for theatrical, linear and streaming, with the primary focus being the Company’s streaming services:
- STUDIOS: Messrs. Horn and Bergman will serve as Chairmen, Studios Content, which will focus on creating branded theatrical and episodic content based on the Company’s powerhouse franchises for theatrical exhibition, Disney+ and the Company’s other streaming services. The group will include the content engines of The Walt Disney Studios, including Disney live action and Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures.
- GENERAL ENTERTAINMENT: Mr. Rice will serve as Chairman, General Entertainment Content, which will focus on creating general entertainment episodic and original long-form content for the Company’s streaming platforms and its cable and broadcast networks. The group will include the content engines of 20th Television, ABC Signature and Touchstone Television; ABC News; Disney Channels; Freeform; FX; and National Geographic.
- SPORTS: Mr. Pitaro will serve as Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content, which will focus on ESPN’s live sports programming, as well as sports news and original and non-scripted sports-related content, for the cable channels, ESPN+, and ABC.
The Media and Entertainment Distribution group, led by Mr. Daniel, will be responsible for the P&L management and all distribution, operations, sales, advertising, data and technology functions worldwide for all of the Company’s content engines, and it will also manage operations of the Company’s streaming services and domestic television networks. The group will work in close collaboration with the content creation teams on programming and marketing.
A 14-year Disney veteran, Mr. Daniel has held leadership positions across a variety of businesses, including consumer products, games and interactive experiences, publishing, studio distribution, and Walt Disney Imagineering. He has a deep understanding of the Company’s brands and franchises and vast experience extending original IP into experiential storytelling across business segments. Prior to leading Consumer Products, Games and Publishing, Mr. Daniel served as President of Walt Disney Imagineering Operations, Product Creation, Publishing and Games, where he was responsible for helping to transform IP from the various content partners into evergreen franchise properties at Disney’s parks and resorts, including Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lands at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World and Shanghai Disneyland, and Pixar Pier and the upcoming Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park.
Mr. Daniel also served as Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, and prior to that, as Vice President of Distribution Strategy at Walt Disney Studios, where he worked closely with the leadership in developing the Company’s film content distribution strategy across multiple platforms and played a key role in the commercialization of the Studio’s films.
“Kareem is an exceptionally talented, innovative and forward-looking leader, with a strong track record for developing and implementing successful global content distribution and commercialization strategies,” said Mr. Chapek. “As we now look to rapidly grow our direct-to-consumer business, a key focus will be delivering and monetizing our great content in the most optimal way possible, and I can think of no one better suited to lead this effort than Kareem. 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.”
“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 Mr. 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.”
With the reorganization, the Direct-to-Consumer and International business will no longer be managed on a combined basis. In Ms. Campbell’s role leading international operations, she will be responsible for coordinating and integrating activities across the various business units in each market to best represent the Company’s overall interests, and will report to Mr. Chapek. In her role leading direct-to-consumer operations for Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+, she will report to Mr. Daniel.
The new structure is effective immediately, and the Company expects to transition to financial reporting under this structure in the first quarter of fiscal 2021.
The Company will hold a virtual Investor Day on December 10th, where Disney will present further details of its direct-to-consumer strategies.
This news sent the Walt Disney Companies stock jumping by 4%.