20th TV & Touchstone merged under Disney TV restructure

ABC & Hulu original content also consolidated.

MUMBAI: The shake-up in Walt Disney’s upper echelons continues, after the company announced large-scale streamlining of its content creation and distribution into separate and distinct global units earlier this year. Falling in line with CEO Bob Chapek’s vision of ‘strategic reorganisation’ in the wake of the tumult caused by Covid2019, other heads of businesses – namely general entertainment content chairman Peter Rice, and media and entertainment distribution overseen by Kareem Daniels – divvied up responsibilities, shuffled top-rung personnel, consolidated assets, and generally spruced up operations to make the multi-billion dollar enterprise more profitable in these troubled times.

Last month, Disney-owned ESPN unveiled its own reshuffle of senior leaders, with content executive vice president Connor Schell leaving the company. Reports stated that the sports outlet is expected to reduce its workforce by 500 staffers.

Now, ahead of Investor Day (scheduled for 10 December), Disney has undertaken another big round of restructuring to further consolidate its content creation across streaming and linear. Walt Disney Television chairman of entertainment Dana Walden has initiated a major reorganisation of the television production and original content businesses under her leadership. This includes Hulu’s longtime SVP content Craig Erwich adding oversight of ABC original content to his purview. He has been named president of Hulu Originals and ABC Entertainment.

He will take over responsibilities held by ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke who, after a successful stint at the network, is taking on a role as president of 20th Television, the combined operation of 20th Television and Touchstone Television. As the cable/streaming-focused studio is being folded into 20th TV, Disney TV Studios has now gone down to two divisions with ABC Studios and ABC Signature merger earlier this year. 20th TV will be run by Burke, and ABC Signature will be headed by president Jonnie Davis. Both Davis and Burke will report to Walden.

Craig Hunegs will move from his role as president of Disney Television Studios to become Walt Disney Television entertainment president, working alongside Walden across all business units. He will oversee centralised business affairs, production, casting and creative talent development & inclusion teams.

Touchstone TV (formerly Fox 21) president Bert Salke will bring transition to a multi-year overall producing deal with Disney Television Studios. During his time at the company, Salke looked after development and production at the studio, which included such shows as Homeland, Genius, Queen of the South and The Hot Zone. Together with FX Prods, the studio produced The Americans, Sons of Anarchy, Mayans M.C and more.

Former 20th TV president Carolyn Cassidy will stay back at the studio as EVP, development. Touchstone TV’s Jane Francis will also stay put and become EVP - series for 20th TV. Both Francis and Cassidy will report to Burke.

As part of the restructuring, 20th Animation, currently a division of 20th TV, will have its own unit, run by Marci Proietto. Additionally, Disney TV will launch a production unit for unscripted programming. Both divisions will be overseen by Hunegs.

Tara Duncan will continue to oversee original programming for Freeform. She and Erwich will continue to report to Walden.

“This has been an incredibly challenging but successful year. Our television studios produce many of the top-rated shows in the industry. ABC is now the number one entertainment network and the Hulu Originals team launched their most successful slate yet of critically acclaimed, award-winning, high-performing shows. I am proud of our exceptional leadership team and all we have accomplished, but the media landscape is changing and this reorganisation better positions us for the future,” said Walden. “The changes we are announcing today are in service of three goals: rightsizing our organization, streamlining functions across our studios and original content teams, and strengthening our partnerships with the extraordinary creators who call Disney Television Studios their home.”

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