Disney restructures global TV team

Newly-structured units under Pyne’s watch

The Mouse House is giving a makeover to its multibillion-dollar global TV distribution operation.

Ben Pyne has been tapped president of a newly fashioned unit called Global Distribution Disney-ABC Worldwide Television & Disney Media Networks. In effect, he takes the baton from Laurie Younger, president of Disney-ABC Worldwide Television, who has decided to retire at the end of her contract in January.

Younger oversaw what is reckoned a $2.5 billion worldwide content distribution business. Pyne will take over that business as well as have oversight of the worldwide channels business, which led by ESPN and the Disney Channel, also funnels eye-popping revenues to the company.

Disney announced Wednesday the formation of what it called its new “integrated global television distribution unit” and unveiled the executive handoff.

Pyne will report to Anne Sweeney, co-chair of the Disney Media Networks arm and president of Disney-ABC Television Group, and to Alan Bergman, president of Walt Disney Studios.

Through the end of the year, Younger will assist in transitioning to the new structure and will be available to provide counsel to the management team.

She told Daily Variety she had been thinking about stepping down for the last year. “I haven’t not worked since I was 16. I’m giving myself an opportunity to try it on,” she said, not ruling out some eventual future role in the biz.

The Mouse House do-over comes after a three-year juggernaut performance domestically by ABC and by the global distribution arm, which has parlayed “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Ugly Betty” to record license fees abroad.

In short, not much is broke on the international distribution side of Disney’s business, so it’s likely that no wholesale changes will be made in that area.

“Laurie has built a fantastic team,” Pyne told Daily Variety Wednesday. “Part of my focus will be to make sure that best practices are disseminated throughout the entire operation.”

As a mostly domestic-focused exec, Pyne was instrumental in pioneering and driving Disney’s lucrative umbrella cable carriage deals for all its channels Stateside.

Pyne said there may be opportunities abroad for similarly “broader deals” on the carriage front, but added that he expected his team to “tailor future deals to the situation and the opportunities in each territory.” He did get his feet wet on the foreign front a couple of years ago, working on a huge renewal deal for Disney product with satcaster BSkyB in the U.K.

For domestic responsibilities concerning ESPN, Pyne will continue reporting to Sean Bratches, exec VP of sales and marketing, ESPN and ABC Sports. He will also work closely with Andy Bird, president, Walt Disney Intl.

Pyne had served as president, Disney & ESPN Networks affiliate sales and marketing, a role he was promoted to in October 2005. He also oversaw U.S. distribution of related HDTV, broadband, video-on-demand, subscription video-on-demand, interactive television, pay-per-view, Spanish-language, and sports syndication products.

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