Television

Disney restructures business in the face of digital disruption

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MUMBAI: Walt Disney Co, on Wednesday, announced a sweeping restructuring aimed at accelerating its global expansion during a period of upheaval for Hollywood.

The entertainment giant said it would combine its international media business and its content streaming operation into one unit and create another division to house its consumer products business along with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Its biggest restructuring in recent years, Disney's move is the latest effort by a legacy entertainment and media company to adapt to rapid changes in consumer behaviour driven by digital technology.

Disney had been expected to make structural changes as it prepared to launch two streaming services and buy film and TV assets owned by 21st Century Fox—a $52.4 billion deal that requires federal regulatory approval.

Disney's new direct-to-consumer and international unit will include the upcoming ESPN+ streaming service, which launches later this year, and a Disney-branded film and TV streaming offering scheduled to debut in 2019.

The unit also will include video-on-demand service Hulu, in which Disney would own a controlling stake if the Fox deal is approved. Kevin Mayer, who has been Disney's chief strategy officer since 2015, was named chairman of the new global business.

The combining of Disney's parks and resorts business and its consumer products group will help streamline operations for units that already had their share of overlap.

Bob Chapek, who has headed Disney Parks and Resorts since 2015, was named chairman of the new unit. As its leader, Chapek will assume additional responsibility for all of Disney's consumer products operations globally, including licensing and Disney stores.

Disney chairman and chief executive Robert Iger said in a statement that the changes would position the company "for the future, creating a more effective, global framework to serve consumers worldwide, increase growth and maximise shareholder value."

In December, with the announcement of the prospective Fox deal, Iger, 67, extended his contract by three years; he is now expected to retire in 2021 when his new pact ends.

The restructuring plan, which is effective immediately, elevates key lieutenants Mayer and Chapek, who now are poised to work more closely with Iger for the remainder of his tenure.

Their promotions come amid much speculation about who will be chosen as Iger's successor.

Chapek was head of Disney Consumer Products before being tapped to lead the parks group. The 58-year-old executive also previously was president of distribution for Walt Disney Studios.

The last time Disney restructured its business units was in 2015, when it merged its interactive and consumer products units, a move that was designed to better align once-distant businesses that new technology had brought closer together.

Two Disney units - media networks and studio entertainment - are remaining the same, save for minor changes, such as the studio's programme sales operation moving to the direct-to-consumer and international unit.

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