by Ray Keating
October 9, 2018
Disney’s new business journey, perhaps fittingly, got ready to set sail on October 8, Columbus Day. Specifically, The Walt Disney Company announced that, conditional upon closing of its acquisition of 21st Century Fox, key Fox personnel would be taking leadership positions under a re-worked Media Networks segment at Disney.
Specifically, Peter Rice will become chairman of Walt Disney Television and co-chair of Disney Media Networks. While reporting directly to Disney CEO and chairman Bob Iger, Rice will be in charge of ABC Television Network, ABC Studios, the ABC Owned Television Stations Group, Disney Channels, Freeform, Twentieth Century Fox Television, FX Networks and FX Productions, Fox 21 Television Studios, and the National Geographic channels.
Rice currently is president of 21st Century Fox, and chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group.
Reporting to Rice will be Dana Walden, chairman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment; John Landgraf, chairman of FX Networks and FX Productions; Gary E. Knell, chairman of National Geographic Partners; Gary Marsh, president and CEO of Disney Channels Worldwide; and James Goldston, as president of ABC News. Walden, Landgraf, Knell and Marsh are all coming in from Fox, while Goldston has led ABC News since 2014.
Iger said, “The strength of 21st Century Fox’s first-class management talent has always been a compelling part of this opportunity for us.”
An NBCNews report noted, “The appointments, which were long anticipated, amount to a Fox-ification of Disney’s television unit. That is a coup for Rupert Murdoch, whose family is now Disney’s second-largest shareholder, with many of his top lieutenants transferring to positions of influence at one of Hollywood’s most powerful studios.”
Meanwhile, an assessment from Variety.com pointed out:
Sources close to the situation emphasize that film and TV production will be an enormous strategic advantage for Disney as it ramps up its still-unnamed streaming service. But strategic concerns can be undone by the practicalities of integration and execution, particularly amid an effort to meld two cultures as disparate as Fox and Disney.
Rice and Walden will have their work cut out for them as they help forge a new path for Disney at the same time the industry grapples with systemic changes in the way programming is produced, distributed and most important — monetized.
Indeed, as Iger declared, “Upon completion of the acquisition, this new structure positions these proven leaders to help drive maximum value from a greatly enhanced portfolio of incredible brands and businesses.” That’s the goal.
Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels, with the two latest books being Reagan Country: A Pastor Stephen Grant Noveland Heroes and Villains: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story. He can be contacted at email@example.com.