The Walt Disney Company announced details Thursday of its strategic restructuring, which will, according to an official release, “refocus the organization on creativity, empower creative leaders and ensure they are accountable for all aspects of their businesses globally, and put the company’s streaming business on a path to sustained growth and profitability.” This offers some clarification and insight into the expanded roles of top executives Alan Bergman, Dana Walden and Jimmy Pitaro, first announced during the February 2023 earnings call with CEO Bob Iger on Wednesday.
Thursday’s announcement states that, effective immediately, the company will be organized into (and around) three business segments: Disney Entertainment, ESPN and Disney Parks, Experiences and Products (aka DPEP, which was created by Iger in 2018). The official release stresses that “the leaders of each business segment will have full operational control and financial responsibility for creative development, marketing, technology, sales, and distribution, and will be accountable for driving business efficiencies globally.”
This is a direct rebuttal to the way that Chapek had restructured the company, taking power away from creative executives and putting it into a new unit that was dictating dissemination and ad sales for all Disney product, including theatrical and Disney+ content. The unit was responsible for distribution, operations, sales, and advertising data and technology across all Disney content and reeked of the Strategic Planning division that was a hallmark of the Michael Eisner administration.
At first, it was a helpful tool. But soon, key creative decisions were being dictated by the Strategic Planning division; when Iger ascended to power in 2005, he quickly did away with this, as well.
“For nearly 100 years, storytelling and creativity have fueled The Walt Disney Company, with virtually every interaction we have with our consumers emanating from something creative,” Iger said in a statement. “I am committed to positioning this company for a new era of growth. Our strategic restructuring will return creativity to the center of the company, increase accountability, improve results, and ensure the quality of our content and experiences.”
Under the restructuring Bergman and Walden will be charged with overseeing the overall streaming strategy for the company. While they will be responsible for overseeing content specific to their brands (more on that in a minute), together they will be charged with executing the strategy for both Disney+ and Hulu. Bergman, Walden and Pitaro (for sports) will now also have oversight of all international content and operations. Additionally, beyond creative development and marketing, they will be adding ad sales, content sales distribution, product and technology to their list of duties; these divisions will be centralized under Bergman, Walden and Pitaro.
Here’s a complete breakdown of what each executive will oversee:
Bergman will also have primary oversight of the following businesses and content brands: Disney Live Action, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Studios, and Searchlight Pictures as well as Disney Music Group and Disney Theatrical Group.
Walden will also have primary oversight of the following businesses and content brands: ABC Entertainment, ABC News, ABC Owned Televisions Stations, Disney Branded Television, Disney Television Studios, Freeform, FX, Hulu Originals, National Geographic Content and Onyx Collective.
Michael Paull continues to oversee Disney+ and Hulu, reporting into Bergman and Walden.
Pitaro will continue to oversee eight linear networks, including ESPN and ESPN2; sports content across all Disney domestic and, going forward, international platforms; ESPN+; ESPN Audio; ESPN Digital; ESPN Social; ESPN Fantasy and a variety of owned sports events.
Effective immediately, several shared-service organizations across the company will support both Disney Entertainment and ESPN, facilitating company-wide efficiencies and creating a more cost-effective, coordinated and streamlined approach to operations. These include Product and Technology, led by Aaron LaBerge; Advertising Sales, led by Rita Ferro; and Platform Distribution, led by Justin Connolly – excluding Theatrical Distribution and Music, which will be overseen by Bergman.
Disney Parks, Experiences and Products — encompassing the company’s theme parks, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney and National Geographic Expeditions, as well as Disney’s global consumer products, games and publishing businesses — will continue under the leadership of Chairman Josh D’Amaro.