Disney has given its operations in Asia a major revamp. At Walt Disney International it is merging its operations in Japan, South Korea and Greater China into a new regional hub covering North Asia.
Similarly, it is pooling businesses in India with those of South East Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, The Philippines and Vietnam) into a new South Asia grouping.
Walt Disney International is the division that covers management of all Disney businesses outside North America, but excludes theme parks and ESPN. The new structure replaces a pan-Asia organization that was previously headed by Paul Candland. He is expected to head into retirement after some 19 years with Disney.
The North Asia hub will be managed by Luke Kang, who has headed Greater China for Disney since 2014. The South Asia hub is to be headed from Oct. 1 by Mahesh Samat, who rejoined Disney as head of India in November 2016. (He was previously India head in 2008-12.) Both report to Andy Bird, chairman of WDI.
“This new structure aligns and maximizes efficiencies around regions with similar opportunities and creates the momentum to accelerate growth for the company in these markets,” said Bird in a statement.
Shanghai-based Kang will split his time across Greater China, Korea and Japan. Samat will split his time between Mumbai and Singapore. While the company will still maintain country managers in each of the South East Asian territories, Rob Gilby who headed SE Asia from Singapore will be leaving the company.
While splitting the vast and diverse Asia region into more manageable proportions, new groupings still cover significant differences in scale, development and structure. In 2016, Disney was the number one foreign studio at the Chinese box office, and has also expanded its reach into new cities and to new consumer groups across China. In Japan and Korea, Hollywood content is well-established but has been overtaken by dynamic local content models. In South Asia, there is stark contrast between India (vast and complicated market with still developing infrastructure), while Singapore is closer in consumer behavior to developed English-language territories elsewhere, albeit with a persistently high piracy problem.
“It is an honor to lead Walt Disney International in North Asia, which includes two of the biggest and most dynamic economies in the world. The region’s ever-changing media and entertainment landscape as well as dynamic consumer products market provides incredible opportunity to continue to forge connections with our brands and franchises to drive growth,” said Kang in a prepared statement.
“The South East Asian region is characterized by its dynamic growth and extreme diversity. I am pleased to have the opportunity to lead both teams to create new, innovative ways for audiences to engage with our stories, brands and characters, and drive growth across our businesses,” said Samat.