Disney promoted longtime ESPN exec Justin Connolly to the new role of president, media distribution, overseeing a single organization that combines all of the company’s media sales and TV channel distribution operations.
Connolly previously served as EVP, affiliate sales and marketing, Disney and ESPN Media Networks. Based in New York, he will report to Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer and International (DTCI) segment.
In the new role, Connolly will head up global app distribution deals for Disney’s direct-to-consumer streaming services – including Disney Plus, ESPN Plus, and Movies Anywhere. Connolly also will be responsible for deals involving the distribution of film and TV programming via home entertainment, broadcasting platforms, digital platforms, subscription VOD, and pay-TV networks.
Connolly will work with DTCI’s international content sales teams, which now report directly into their respective regional leaders. According to Disney, Connolly will have final approval on all content sales agreements for Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox Film, Fox Animation, Disneynature, ABC Studios, ABC Entertainment, National Geographic, FX Productions, 20th Century Fox Television, WABC, Freeform, Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior.
Connolly will continue to oversee all aspects of North American distribution, affiliate marketing and affiliate-related business operations for all the services provided by Disney and ESPN media networks including ESPN, Disney Channel, Freeform, FX, FXX, National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild. He also will manage related internet streaming, HDTV, video-on-demand, interactive TV and retransmission consent agreements for Disney’s eight-owned ABC stations and will continue to have oversight of the ABC Affiliate Relations and Marketing team.
“By combining all of our media, affiliate, content and syndication sales, and distribution efforts into the Direct-to-Consumer & International segment, we continue to transform the ways in which we distribute the great stories and characters created by the Walt Disney Company’s studios and media networks,” Mayer said in a statement. “I’ve had the great pleasure of working with Justin for many years and believe his experience makes him well suited to drive Disney’s media sales and distribution efforts. He is a consummate professional, a fantastic dealmaker, and a great leader.”
A two-decade veteran of ESPN and Disney, Connolly was named head of Disney & ESPN Affiliate Sales and Marketing in 2015 and in June 2017 added oversight of ESPN’s strategy and business development teams. Prior to that, Connolly served as ESPN’s SVP, college networks and was SVP, national accounts for Disney & ESPN Media Networks.
Connolly originally joined ESPN in 2003 and served in various capacities including director of ESPN strategy and operations and VP, distribution strategy. Prior to joining ESPN, he worked in Disney’s corporate finance group in Burbank, Calif. The Boston native holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.