Following the Walt Disney earnings call earlier this week, the company’s television portfolio held a town hall meeting Friday morning, sources said. The first of its kind since the assets were joined together following the Disney-Fox merger, the meeting was run by Peter Rice, Chairman of Walt Disney Television and co-chair of Disney Media Networks, who addressed the employees, as did all of his direct reports who lead the various TV divisions of the combined company.
Sources described the tone of the meeting as positive, reassuring and upbeat, showing appreciation for everyone’s dedication during the difficult times of COVID-19 and highlighting successes that have come out of the challenging situation.
While Disney on Tuesday reported losses of $1.4 billion, stemming largely from the closures of the company’s parks and other experiences, including cruises, the television group performed well in Q2, something Rice noted during the town hall. The media networks’ revenues for the quarter rose 28% and operating income increased 7%, according Disney’s earnings report.
During the brief Q&A portion of the town hall, Rice was asked about potential layoffs, pay cuts or furloughs across the TV portfolio. While stopping short of a guarantee that cuts would never happen, Rice assured employees that there are no current plans for any reductions, and nothing is on the horizon.
Some of the highlights from the short group presentations included FX Chairman John Landgraf speaking of the successful launch of FX on Hulu, which also was discussed during Disney’s earnings call, singling out new FXX comedy series Dave, whose breakout performance is attributed to its run on Hulu.
I hear Dana Walden, Chairman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment, noted ABC’s current streak of 13 weeks as No.1 and the network’s recent ratings success with The Disney Family Singalong. Disney Channels’ Gary Marsh and Nat Geo Chairman Gary Knell also shared ratings highlights.
Showcased was the ABC News division for the work it is doing during the coronavirus pandemic and World News Tonight With David Muir‘s remarkable feat as the top program on television.
The challenges faced by TV studios amid a production shutdown due to the pandemic were also addressed, but that also provided a moment of optimism over what could be on the other side. When speaking of the shutdown, Walden noted that it is reminiscent of the 2007-08 writers strike which also ground TV production to a halt for months, sources said. But out of that came Glee and Modern Family, she remarked. The two signature 20th Century Fox TV series were developed on Walden’s watch right after the end of the strike.
Modern Family‘s much heralded run came to an end last month. It was one of several recently departed high-profile series from divisions of Disney TV Studios that were acknowledged at the town hall, along with Homeland and Empire.