Four months after Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of key Fox assets was completed, changes are coming to the combined TV production operation Disney Television Studios.
Exiting are ABC Studios president Patrick Moran and the studio’s EVP Business Operations Howard Davine. They will be replaced by two senior 20th Century Fox TV executives, Jonnie Davis and Josh Sussman. 20th TV President of Creative Affairs Davis has been named president of ABC Studios. 20th TV SVP Business Affairs Sussman has been promoted to EVP Business Affairs, ABC Studios, where he will work for Davis.
At 20th Century Fox TV, studio veteran Carolyn Cassidy, most recently EVP Current Series, will succeed Davis. She has been promoted to President, Creative Affairs, to run that studio alongside Howard Kurtzman, who continues as president of Business Operations. Terence Carter continues as 20th TV’s EVP Development.
Davis, Cassidy and Kurtzman report to Craig Hunegs, president of Disney Television Studios. Bert Salke continues as President, Fox 21 Television Studios, also reporting to Hunegs. (You can read Hunegs’ internal memo on the changes, obtained by Deadline, below)
The restructuring at Disney TV Studios continues the trend of Fox TV executives taking over the key leadership positions at Disney-Fox, which started pre-merger with the appointments of Peter Rice as Chairman, Walt Disney Television and Co-Chair, Disney Media Networks, and Dana Walden as chairman, Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment, as well as the entire executive team of 20th TV/Fox 21 moving over. Davis’ elevation is not surprising as he has long been one of Walden’s most trusted lieutenants and a rising star at 20th TV.
“Jonnie is a great leader with infectious energy and optimism, as well as an incredible partner to our creators. Together with Josh, a gifted business affairs strategist, Jonnie is poised to take ABC Studios to even greater levels of success,” Hunegs said.
Moran, who came to ABC Studios from 20th TV, is leaving after a nine-year stint, most recently as president. With him at the helm, the studio expanded its operation with the launch of cable/streaming division ABC Signature and by adding an unscripted division. Moran, a veteran programming executive, is said to be fielding interest for new opportunities.
Davine also is an industry veteran who is coming off a lengthy tenure at ABC Studios where he is credited with crafting new deal templates in the evolving TV business.
“I have enormous respect for Patrick and Howard and for all they have achieved in their careers at ABC Studios,” Hunegs said. “Patrick has developed and overseen many landmark series and has an excellent slate of new shows.”
On Davine, Hunegs, who also comes from a business affairs background, said, “I have known Howard for many years and he is one of the most accomplished and effective business affairs executives in our industry, having made a number of groundbreaking deals and run an excellent business.”
Cassidy has run 20th TV’s current series department since July 2015, helping to grow hits such as This Is Us, Empire, 9-1-1 and Modern Family. She first joined 20th TV in 2009 as VP Comedy Series and developed New Girl, Fresh Off the Boat and Last Man Standing.
“Carolyn is an absolute star creative executive with extraordinary leadership skills, a deep understanding of the studio and great relationships with our creators and entire company,” Hunegs said. “We are thrilled that Howard will continue alongside her, as together they make a formidable team.”
Davis joined 20th TV in January 2008 as SVP Comedy Development, quickly rising to EVP Comedy. He held the role of EVP Comedy and Animation Development, before being named President of Creative Affairs, alongside Business Operations President Howard Kurtzman. He helped develop commercial and critical hits This Is Us and Modern Family and strong performers New Girl, Fresh Off the Boat, Last Man on Earth and Last Man Standing. He also oversaw the studio’s recent expansion into animation development which includes the upcoming Bless the Harts, Duncanville, Solar Opposites and Central Park.
Sussman has served as SVP Business Affairs at 20th TV since 2016. Prior to joining the studio, he was EVP Business Affairs, and general counsel at Electus.
While the combined Disney-Fox film group had been hit with a slew of high-level exits, layoffs and the shuttering of the Fox 2000 division, outside of TV distribution and ad sales, the merged Disney-Fox TV operations had been spared so far, and Hunigs had said publicly that the plan is to keep the existing units of Disney TV Studios — 20th TV, Fox 21 and ABC Studios/ABC Signature — autonomous.
Ramping up production of TV content is key to Disney’s strategy of making its direct-to-consumer platform a rival to Netflix, so no major layoffs had been expected in TV production but Walden had been expected to put her stamp on the leadership of ABC Studios. She has a close personal relationship with Moran who is part of her inner social circle who often vacation together.
The notable TV executive departures in the immediate aftermath of the Disney-Fox deal close in March were Mark Kaner, President of 20th Century FoxTelevision Distribution, Greg Meidel, president of syndication division Twentieth Television.
A month later, there was a second round of layoffs affecting TV ad sales executives in New York, impacting executives from the former Fox Networks Group, including EVP Michael Teicher.
Here is Hunegs’ memo:
We will shortly be announcing changes to our leadership at ABC Studios and Twentieth Century Fox Television.
Jonnie Davis, who has done fantastic work leading the creative team at 20th, is moving to ABC Studios as President, effective immediately. Josh Sussman, a gifted and creative deal maker, will also move from 20th to ABC Studios as Executive Vice President, Business Affairs, reporting to Jonnie.
At 20th Century Fox Television, we are really pleased to announce that Carolyn Cassidy has been promoted to President, Creative Affairs. She will run the studio together with Howard Kurtzman, President, Business Operations. They are exceptional leaders.
Patrick Moran and Howard Davine will be stepping down from their current roles and I have enormous respect for all they have achieved in their careers at ABC Studios. Patrick has developed and overseen many landmark series and has an excellent slate of new shows. I have known Howard for many years and he is one of the most accomplished and effective business affairs executives in our industry, having made a number of groundbreaking deals and run an excellent business. Together they have brought to ABC Studios a wonderful group of writers, producers and executives and made a lasting contribution to The Walt Disney Company.
From the launch of Disney Television Studios just over 100 days ago, Dana and I have worked with you to make our studios a home for the most talented people to create the most compelling and entertaining television. In our early days, DTS has added promising new shows, continued to win awards and brought to our studio even more of the best creators. We thank all of you for your excellent work and for creating a new spirit of collaboration.
I know that change can be difficult in the short term. Dana and I will do our best to communicate with you often, with transparency and clarity. We promise you that the years ahead will be filled with creating great television, with great people, having much fun along the way. The best is unquestionably yet to come.