Disney Reorganizes Divisions, Creates Dedicated Direct-to-Consumer Streaming Unit

Disney announced a reorganization of the company into four segments, which will include a newly created direct-to-consumer division to house the conglomerate’s portfolio of streaming businesses.

Kevin Mayer, who has served as Disney’s chief strategy officer since 2015, will head Disney’s new Direct-to-Consumer and International business segment as chairman. That will encompass ESPN+, a sports-streaming subscription service slated to launch in the spring of 2018, and the Disney-branded streaming service (as yet unnamed) set for a late-2019 debut.

Mayer also will oversee BAMTech Media, the streaming-infrastructure company founded by Major League Baseball in which Disney owns a majority stake; Disney’s ownership stake in Hulu; and Disney Digital Network (formerly within the Consumer Products and Interactive Media division), which includes Maker Studios.

With the reorg, Disney is dismantling the Consumer Products and Interactive Media group, previously headed by Jimmy Pitaro and created in 2015. Last week Disney named Pitaro as the new president of ESPN.

Consumer products will now move under Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. He’ll assume additional responsibility for all of Disney’s consumer products operations globally, including licensing and Disney stores, as chairman of the newly reorganized Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products business segment.

Variety first reported last week that Disney was considering moving DCPI under Chapek’s purview.

According to the company, the Disney Media Networks and studio businesses will remain “virtually the same.” Disney Media Networks, which includes ABC, ABC News, ESPN and Disney’s other cable channels, is co-chaired by Ben Sherwood, president of Disney-ABC Television Group, and Pitaro. Alan Horn remains chairman of The Walt Disney Studios.

However, Disney is transferring global advertising-sales operations from Media Networks into Mayer’s new group. That includes the ad sales teams for all Disney media properties, including ESPN, ABC, Freeform and the Disney Channels. The move is aimed at “giving advertisers a one-stop-shop for reaching audiences across all of Disney’s media properties, including its online and direct-to-consumer platforms,” according to the company. With the change, Rita Ferro, president of advertising sales, Disney-ABC Television Group, and Edward Erhardt, ESPN’s president of global sales and marketing, will now report directly to Mayer.

In addition, Disney’s program-sales operations headed by Janice Marinelli will move under the new Direct-to-Consumer and International business segment.

Mayer, as head of Disney’s corporate strategy team since 2005, has overseen Disney’s acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Club Penguin and Maker Studios, as well as its pact announced in December 2017 to acquire most of the assets of 20th Century Fox. In his new role, Mayer continues to report to Disney CEO Bob Iger.

“Kevin is a proven leader who has played a critical role in bringing together the collection of creative and technological assets that will allow Disney to offer unparalleled entertainment experiences in a direct-to-consumer future,” Iger said in a statement.

Disney unveiled plans to launch its own subscription VOD service last summer, and would end its licensing deal with Netflix for Disney’s movies starting with 2019 releases.

Disney senior VP Agnes Chu will move to Mayer’s Direct-to-Consumer and International group and will continue to oversee programming for the upcoming Disney-branded streaming service. She had previously been head of story and franchise development at Walt Disney Imagineering. The Disney service will be the exclusive SVOD home for Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm movies and will include original and exclusive TV series and movies programming, plus thousands of titles from the Disney film and television libraries.

New York-based BAMTech, led by ex-Amazon video exec Michael Paull, is developing both the Disney-branded and ESPN+ streaming platforms. In January, BAMTech hired former Apple and Samsung exec Kevin Swint as SVP and GM of the Disney SVOD service.

Mayer also has oversight of Disney’s international channels, with regional managers across Europe/Middle East/Africa, Asia and Latin America reporting in to the exec.

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