Peter Rice, president of Walt Disney Co.’s television content division, has been released from Burbank-based entertainment giant in a move that will shake up Hollywood.
Rice has replaced his former lieutenant, Dana Walden, who was previously the head of entertainment at Walt Disney Television, Disney said Thursday. The change will take effect immediately.
Rice, a much-admired TV veteran, was dismissed on the grounds of “cultural adjustment” by people who did not know the subject, who were not allowed to comment.
Walden, who joined Disney as Rice three years ago to buy assets for 21st Century Fox, becomes president of Disney General Entertainment Content, which is responsible for ABC, Disney Television Studios, Freeform, FX, National Geographic Content and other programming. . marks. Walden’s portfolio will also include content for streaming channels such as ABC News and Hulu.
“Dana is a dynamic, collaborative and cultural leader who has turned our television business into a content powerhouse for three years, constantly providing entertainment to its viewers,” said Bob Chap, an CEO of Disney, in an email to staff announcing the decision.
“Dana is one of the most well-respected and respected executives in the business, and has successfully established her reputation for advocating creative talent and developing a culture-driven programming.”
The move also removes an executive who is seen as a potential threat to Chapek’s leadership.
Rice, a former director of 21st Century Fox who excelled in the harsh culture of Rupert Murdoch’s entertainment empire, was speculated as a possible successor to Chapek at a rocky time in the company. Even before Chapek’s rise, Rice was often referred to as Kevin Mayer, as someone he could take on in place of Bob Iger.
The entertainment industry was upset about Chapek’s political storm over opposition to the Florida Parental Rights Education Act, which is considered anti-gay by LGBTQ advocates and Disney employees. Governor Ron DeSantis dismissed the company as a “wake-up call,” and the Florida Legislature voted to deprive Disney of its special self-government privileges in the area where the Walt Disney World Resort is located.
Disney shares have struggled, along with many other companies, between fear of the economic downturn and concerns about the state of the streaming business, which Chapek has made a top priority for Disney. Disney +, a company that competes with Netflix, recently reached 137.7 million subscribers, but some analysts doubt that the service could meet its target of 230 million members by 2024.
The combination of factors led some industry observers to question whether Chap’s tenure at the helm of the company was in jeopardy.
But Disney President Susan Arnold expressed her support for Chape in a statement Thursday.
“The strength of The Walt Disney Company’s exit from the pandemic is a testament to Bob’s leadership and vision for the company’s future,” Arnold said. “In this important time of business growth and transformation, we are committed to keeping Disney on the path to success today, and Bob and his management team have the support and trust of the Board.”
Rice’s ouster is Disney’s latest shake-up. Disney’s chief communications officer, Geoff Morrell, was fired in April as a result of the Florida scandal.
Rice, blinded by his decision to release him, did not get along well with the company’s new regime, according to insiders. Chapek took over as CEO of Iger in 2020 and reorganized the company, separating the content business from distribution decisions, which caused a rift within the organization, especially among high-ranking executives accustomed to relative autonomy.
Distribution decisions — whether the show was broadcast on Disney’s regular channels or on streaming services — were passed on to Kareem Daniel, who runs Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution. The reorganization also took away financial decisions from programmers, including Rice, and put that power on Daniel.
The structure created tensions for Rice and Daniel, a longtime Disney deputy for Chap, according to people who knew the subject without public permission to comment.
However, Disney insiders were shocked by the timing of the decision, as Rico’s contract was extended last year, and he was on stage with Daniel a week ago at the company’s presentation to advertisers. Now, Disney will have to pay Rise’s contract for the remaining 2 and a half years.
Chapek called Rice at a meeting on Wednesday and told him he was released.
At the meeting, which lasted less than 10 minutes, Chapek told Rico that he was not “fit for good” and that Chapek wanted his person to lead the team.
In Walden, Chapek felt that he had not only the talent to lead a massive creative organization but also the collaborative nature.
Chapek also wanted to simplify a structure he inherited when he took power at Disney, in which TV content was governed by two top executives, according to people who know the subject.
The level of Walden, already one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, is increasing her strength in a business that has been without women’s executive leadership.
Walden also joined Disney in 2019 by buying Fox assets. Known for his talented approach and Disney Television Studios’ success story, Walden has overseen the division responsible for ABC’s “Abbott Elementary” and Hulu’s original “Only Murders in the Building,” “Dopesick” and “The Dropout.”