Dana Walden & Alan Bergman To Oversee New Disney Entertainment Unit

Disney is moving back closer to how things used to be run on the content side with the creation of a new Disney Entertainment unit that will encompass TV and film.

This new corporate division, which will sit separate to ESPN and the Parks, Experiences & Products unit, will be led by Dana Walden and Alan Bergman.

The Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger just revealed the new structure on the company’s latest earnings call, as part of a “significant transformation” at the company that he said would “maximize the potential of our world-class creative teams”.

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It officially dismantles Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, created by former CEO Bob Chapek and run by Kareem Daniel, who left last year. This unit separated the the way content and distribution decisions were made and took decision making power away from the creative teams.

“Our new structure is aimed at returning greater authority to our creative leaders, and making them accountable for how their content performs financially. Our former structure severed that link, and must be restored,” said Iger on the earnings call.

We’re hearing that the changes, which bring all of its direct-to-consumer streaming services such as Disney+ and Hulu, although not ESPN+, under the new division, will be implemented immediately and are designed to return greater authority to its creative leaders.

This comes, however, as the company is facing thousands of layoffs and it’s not clear how many of these will be within the entertainment division, as well as a drive to cut content costs by $3B.

Walden and Bergman, who is Chairman of Disney Studios Content, overseeing the film side, become Co-Chairmen.

It cements the rise of Walden, who was named Chairman of Disney General Entertainment Content following the ouster of Peter Rice last year.

Walden, who came over to Disney from Fox after the $71B acquisition, has been instrumental in a number of major wins for Disney over the last few years including an Oscar win for Summer of Soul, and the launch of ABC breakout comedy series Abbott Elementary and Hulu hits such as Only Murders in the Building, Dopesick and The Kardashians.

In September, she started putting together her first major personnel moves, promoting longtime FX exec Eric Schrier to become president of Disney Television Studios & Business Operations, Disney General Entertainment, and promoting Craig Erwich to president, ABC Entertainment, Hulu & Disney Branded Television Streaming Originals and Shannon Ryan to President, Marketing, Disney General Entertainment.

How the moves will change the way that various television properties are managed remains to be seen with suggestions that the various television studios including 20th Century Television and ABC Signature could become closer.

Bergman was elevated to Disney Studios Content Chairman in December 2020 reporting into Chapek. He previously served as Co-Chairman with Alan Horn starting in 2019.

The near 27 year Disney vet Bergman in his earlier role as Co-Chairman presided over creative, production, marketing, and ops for Disney Studios Content, including Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Studios, Searchlight and Disney Theatrical Production. Prior to 2019, he served as the President of the Walt Disney Studios for 14 years. Bergman is known for his financial savvy when it comes to creative content, and Disney’s track record has underscored that especially as theatrical has returned. Disney led all studios at the worldwide box office in 2022 with $4.9 billion.

Bergman was key with the 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm and 2019 merger with 20th Century Studios which flew Disney to industry box office records of $7 billion WW in 2016 and 2018, and $11 billion in 2019 with a diversified slate from Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar, Disney animated and live action movies. 

Anthony D’Alessandro contributed to this story.

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