Disney is combining its media sales and channel distribution into a single group to be led by longtime ESPN veteran Justin Connolly, who has been given the new title of President of Media Distribution.
Based in New York, Connolly will report to Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer and International (DTCI) segment.
The move comes amid the larger integration of the assets of 21st Century Fox into Disney after the March close of the $71.3 billion. Disney has estimated it will achieve $2 billion in synergies from the deal, and has initiated layoffs in several areas of the company, though no executive departures or layoffs were noted in Thursday’s announcement. Earlier this week, Disney announced that Janice Marinelli, a 34-year company veteran and high-level DTCI executive, would be exiting the company.
“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. “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.”
Connolly joined ESPN in 2003 and climbed the ladder with key roles in the SEC Network before gaining responsibilities across a wider range of Disney properties.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to lead the industry’s best multi-platform sales and distribution teams,” said Connolly. “Through our combined efforts we will achieve the company’s vision for an even stronger, more agile organization that is better able to pivot and capitalize on the many opportunities present in today’s fast-changing and increasingly complex global marketplace.”
In his new role, 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. That large roster includes ESPN and its various subsidiaries as well as Disney Channel, Freeform, FX, National Geographic and related WATCH, HDTV, video-on-demand, interactive television and retransmission consent agreements for The Walt Disney Company’s eight-owned ABC stations. He will also continue to have oversight of the ABC Affiliate Relations and Marketing team.
Also, in what the announcement said was an effort to “ensure alignment between our content licensing and direct-to-consumer priorities,” Connolly will work closely with DTCI’s international content sales teams. 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.
He will also lead global app distribution deals for The Walt Disney Company’s direct-to-consumer streaming services, including Disney+, ESPN+, and Movies Anywhere. Connolly will also be responsible for the distribution of film and television programming via home entertainment, broadcasting platforms, digital platforms, SVOD, and pay networks.