A month ago, Disney announced a major streamlining of its media and entertainment businesses, separating content creation from distribution. Distribution and commercialization was centralized into a single global unit, Media and Entertainment Distribution, led by Kareem Daniel, while content creation was divided into three groups: Studios, General Entertainment and Sports, headed by Alan Horn and Alan Bergman Peter Rice and Jimmy Pitaro, respectively.
Today, Rice, chairman of General Entertainment Content, unveiled the structure of his division, which includes a new direct report, Nat Geo’s Courtney Monroe; changes in titles and responsibilities for existing direct reports Gary Marsh and Dana Walden; and restructuring of the division’s marketing operations, which will be handled by Shannon Ryan and newly appointed Jayanta Jenkins, alongside FX marketing president Stephanie Gibbons. (Rice made the announcement in an internal memo. You can read it below the story.)
Disney Streamlines As COVID-19 Woes Continue, Creating Single Media and Entertainment Distribution Unit Led By Kareem Daniel
Marsh, previously president and chief creative officer for Disney Channels Worldwide, has been named president and chief creative officer, Disney Branded Television. He will now oversee all Disney-branded television content made by DGE for kids, tweens, teens and families, as well as unscripted series and specials. That includes all shows the Disney television production teams make for Disney+, which would include series like The Mighty Ducks, produced by Disney TV Studios. As part of the restructuring, the Disney+ Unscripted Content and Production teams are moving to Rice’s DGE group under Marsh.
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With scripted development for Disney+ migrating to Disney TV Studios about a year ago, the move of the unscripted group completes DGE’s takeover of TV content creation for Disney+ (outside of Marvel and Lucasfilm shows) in line with the content/distribution Disney split announced last month.
Walden, previously chairman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment, has been named chairman of Entertainment, Walt Disney Television. She oversees the development and production operations of Disney TV Studios, Hulu Originals, ABC Entertainment and Freeform.
Monroe, previously president of National Geographic Global Television Networks, also is getting a new title: president, National Geographic Content. She will report to Rice alongside Gary Knell, chairman, National Geographic Partners.
Rice’s existing direct reports also include John Landgraf, chairman, FX; James Goldston, president, ABC News; and Ravi Ahuja, president, Business Operations, Disney General Entertainment Content.
The initial Disney Co. restructuring announcement last month did not specify on which side of the company — content creation or distribution — greenlight power will lie.
Rice clarified the issue in his memo, saying, “We will be responsible for content strategy, development, greenlighting, casting, production, talent management and budget management for all the entertainment and news that DGE creates.”
Still, those greenlight decisions won’t be made in vacuum but rather with the input of the leaders from the MED group. That includes Ricky Strauss, formerly president Content & Marketing for Disney+, who now oversees content curation for both Disney+ and Hulu.
As part of Disney’s new focus on streaming, all of the company’s original content, including that for linear networks, will eventually find its way to Hulu (adult content) and Disney+ (kids/family content).
That is how the DGE group is splitting its marketing operations into agencies, with Ryan as president, Content Marketing, Hulu and General Entertainment; and Jenkins as head of Content Marketing, Disney+ and General Entertainment. (FX marketing for series on the linear FX networks, as well FX on Hulu, remains separate under Gibbons).
The agency led by Ryan will handle marketing, publicity and media planning for content produced by Disney Television Studios, Hulu Originals, ABC Entertainment, Freeform and ABC News. The agency headed by Jenkins, who is coming from Samsung Mobile, will oversee marketing, publicity and media planning for content that DGE creates for Disney+ and for linear networks Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD and National Geographic.
On the Hulu/Disney+ side, Ryan and Jenkins will handle marketing of the shows the content studios are producing for the platforms. Disney+ and Hulu’s brand marketing will continue to be overseen by Joe Earley and Pato Spagnoletto, respectively.
One grey area is non-Disney-branded content produced by Disney TV Studios for Disney+, like the upcoming series Big Shot. It is not completely clear whether those shows’ development, production and marketing will fall under Marsh and Jenkins or Walden and Ryan.
Here is Rice’s memo:
A month ago, Bob Chapek announced a bold strategic reorganization of the Company to modernize our operations and accelerate growth in our direct-to-consumer businesses. As part of that plan, the Company will separate content creation from distribution and commercialization. For our team, this means we will wholly focus our resources and efforts on developing, producing and marketing exceptional content to fuel the company’s streaming and linear platforms while our colleagues at Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution (DMED) will distribute and monetize that content and run the linear networks and streaming platforms.
This is a big change to our legacy television structure which was built around linear networks. But as we look to the future and how consumers choose to watch their programming, this reorganization is an opportunity for us to fully focus on what we do best, making great programming for viewers wherever they choose to watch their favorite shows. I know these changes raise many questions, so today I’ll provide some clarity about our structure and responsibilities.
First off, to better reflect the nature of our new role as a producer of content, the name of our overall organization will become Disney General Entertainment Content (DGE). Our new name creates a clear statement of our function and aligns us with the company’s film and sports content engines.
All together, DGE is one of the most prolific and celebrated content creators in the industry, responsible for over 250 entertainment and news programs a year representing over 4,500 hours of programming. Our content helps drive the success of the Company’s distribution business, and we have been tasked with creating more exceptional content for viewers around the world. To achieve this, we will be responsible for content strategy, development, greenlighting, casting, production, talent management and budget management for all the entertainment and news that DGE creates. Our creative process will be supported by centralized teams that will provide best practices and execution in creative marketing and publicity, content research, and scheduling of first-run content on linear networks. This structure of creative hubs and centralized functions will enable us to produce more content while maintaining the high-level quality we are known for. We will work hand in glove with Kareem Daniel, Rebecca Campbell and all our colleagues at DMED and International to deliver the most compelling content to viewers. We have all worked together as highly successful Disney teammates for many years and this new structure will allow us all to focus and collaborate during this transformative time in the entertainment industry.
Paramount to our success is a strong, experienced leadership team who will lead the way with vision, creativity and a collaborative spirit. Below is our new leadership team, all of whom you will recognize from our current team but with some with new titles and responsibilities.
Ravi Ahuja – President, Business Operations, Disney General Entertainment Content, leads Finance, Strategy and Operations, aligning DGE’s resources and efforts with the Company. He oversees functional teams managing planning and content analysis, finance, labor relations, and music affairs. Added to Ravi’s oversight will be centralized teams for content research for testing and trends, and scheduling of first-run content on linear networks.
James Goldston – President, ABC News, oversees all aspects of the news division’s journalism, including broadcast, streaming, mobile and audio. The most trusted brand in news, ABC News reaches the largest monthly combined audience in the United States and is home to some of the most iconic and respected news brands including GMA and World News Tonight. ABC News has won the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence five times in the past seven years.
Gary Knell – Chairman, National Geographic Partners, oversees the global joint venture between The Walt Disney Company and National Geographic Society reporting to the Board of National Geographic Partners and working across the company with the teams at DGE, DPEP, DMED and International.
John Landgraf – Chairman, FX, oversees development, production, marketing and publicity for the FX brand of original programming on Hulu and linear networks. Under his leadership, John has elevated FX to a brand that is identified with exceptional, award-winning programming. This year, John, his team and our colleagues at DTC, launched FX on Hulu as the exclusive home for current and library FX programs.
Gary Marsh – President and Chief Creative Officer, Disney Branded Television, will lead the expanded Disney Branded Television Group that will now include all Disney-branded television content made by DGE for kids, tweens, teens and families including live-action and animated movies and series, as well as unscripted series and specials. This new group will encompass all shows that our television production teams have been making for Disney+. As part of this, the Disney+ Unscripted Content and Production teams join our group. Please join me in welcoming them to the team. As president of Disney Channels, Gary was the driving force behind some of the company’s most iconic and successful programming and franchises, creating stories of optimism, self-expression and imagination that connected with kids and families everywhere.
Courteney Monroe – President, National Geographic Content, will join my leadership team as a direct report overseeing the exceptional Emmy- and Oscar-winning National Geographic branded content development and production for Disney+ and the linear networks. She will continue to participate as a member of Gary Knell’s senior leadership team. Prior to this new role, Courteney served as president of National Geographic Global Television Networks.
Dana Walden, Chairman of Entertainment, Walt Disney Television, oversees the development and production operations of Disney Television Studios, Hulu Originals, ABC Entertainment and Freeform. Setting the standard for creativity and excellence, Dana’s teams produced the No. 1 show on nine different networks and established ABC as the No. 1 entertainment broadcaster last season; won the only Best Drama Emmy for a streaming service with Hulu Original’s The Handmaid’s Tale; and continues to define content for young adults with Freeform’s coming-of-age programming.
Our incredible, cross-organization, functional services teams will continue to be overseen by
Steve Chung, Legal
Sonia Coleman, Human Resources
Charissa Gilmore, Corporate Communications
As part of the reorganization, we will consolidate marketing, publicity and media planning activities into internal units overseeing all marketing functions. These units will operate like agencies, with each focused on a specific collection of our content to manage marketing, publicity, media planning, events, talent relations and awards strategies.
The first agency will market DGE’s content slated for distribution on Hulu and the linear networks. This includes all content produced by Disney Television Studios, Hulu Originals, ABC Entertainment, Freeform and ABC News. This agency will be led by Shannon Ryan, President, Content Marketing, Hulu and General Entertainment, reporting to Dana Walden. Shannon joined Disney from 21st Century Fox in 2019 as president of Marketing for ABC Entertainment and Disney Television Studios. In her first season spearheading the promotion for ABC’s programming, the network became the No. 1 entertainment broadcaster of the year.
The second internal agency will oversee all marketing, publicity and media planning for content that DGE creates for Disney+ and for linear networks including Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD and National Geographic. Jayanta Jenkins will join DGE as Head of Content Marketing, Disney+ and General Entertainment, to oversee the group, reporting to Gary Marsh and Courteney Monroe. Jayanta will join the company in December from Samsung Mobile where he was the Global Executive Creative Director. Please join me in welcoming Jayanta.
The FX Marketing and Publicity teams will continue to promote all content FX produces for Hulu and the linear networks. The campaigns this team has created helped establish FX as a best-in-class brand known for creative excellence. The FX Marketing team led by Stephanie Gibbons, President, Marketing, has been recognized for its outstanding creativity by winning PROMAX’s North American Marketing Team award for nine consecutive years.
Focusing our structure around content engines and centralized support functions will make us more effective, flexible and prolific as we focus on our core strength: making great television. Over the last several months, in the face of unprecedented change and enormous challenges, your collective efforts and tireless commitment to keeping our television business running have been nothing short of exceptional, and I am incredibly proud to work alongside all of you. Together we have achieved so much and I am excited about the amazing opportunities and limitless possibilities that lie ahead. We will undoubtedly face more questions and challenges as we implement these changes, but I am confident that together we will continue to rise to the occasion with resourcefulness and resilience.
You will hear more from your leaders in the coming weeks as they refine their new structures. Thank you for your patience and dedication. It is critical to our success as we navigate this transformation.
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