With much of its business battered by the coronavirus pandemic, the Walt Disney Company is redoubling its focus on the one bright spot in its empire.
The company announced today a major reorganization of its studio and entertainment businesses, putting its streaming services—which include Disney Plus, Hulu, and ESPN Plus—front and center as part of a centralized global distribution arm, while at the same time creating three separate content groups to focus on the creative side of the business.
Those three groups are:
- Studios, which includes franchise hitmakers like Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Studios, and Walt Disney Studios.
- General Entertainment, which includes Disney’s TV operations, such as 20th Television, ABC News, FX, and National Geographic.
- Sports, which includes ESPN and other sports-related content.
The content groups will be led by Alan F. Horn and Alan Bergman; Peter Rice; and James Pitaro respectively, while the distribution group will be run by Kareem Daniel, formerly president of Disney’s consumer products division. Under the changes, Disney veteran Rebecca Campbell was named as head of direct-to-consumer and will oversee Disney’s streaming services.
The changes come as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced Disney to completely rethink its release strategy for 2020 blockbusters, delaying some movies (Marvel’s Black Widow) until next year, and making others (the live-action Mulan remake) available as a pay-per-view streaming download.
It also follows some 28,000 layoffs from the company’s wounded theme parks division late last month. Disney said that division would continue to be led by Josh D’Amaro, and did not announce further changes to theme parks.
In a statement, Disney CEO Bob Chapek put the most positive spin possible on the changes. “Given the incredible success of Disney Plus and our plans to accelerate our direct-to-consumer business, we are strategically positioning our Company to more effectively support our growth strategy and increase shareholder value,” he said. “Managing content creation distinct from distribution will allow us to be more effective and nimble in making the content consumers want most, delivered in the way they prefer to consume it.”
Following the announcement, Disney shares were up more than 5% in after-hours trading.