In early February, Disney CEO Bob Iger held his first earnings call since once again becoming CEO after the firing of Bob Chapek. During that call, Iger shared that one of his main focuses was giving creative power back to the very talented Disney creatives. As part of that, he was making Dana Walden and Alan Bergman the co-chairs of Disney Entertainment. Walden had been serving as the head of Disney General Entertainment Content after Chapek’s abrupt firing of Peter Rice.
Just weeks into her tenure, Walden is making some big changes at Disney Entertainment. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Walden has appointed FX creative John Landgraf to oversee Onyx and Nat Geo. Freeform’s programming now be will be overseen by Simran Sethi, the Executive Vice President of Scripted Programming and Content Strategy of ABC Entertainment.
In the new structure, which comes after returning CEO Bob Iger’s swift dismantling of Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, National Geographic head Courteney Monroe and Duncan will report to Landgraf, who will continue to be one of Walden’s direct reports. Monroe, whose brand just earned its third Oscar nomination for Fire of Love, will now oversee all aspects of the Nat Geo brand, including its magazine, digital efforts and original content strategy.
For Sethi, now executive vp programming and content strategy for ABC and Freeform, the additional purview marks a return to a younger-skewing brand that she helped to launch. She will continue reporting to Disney TV Group president Craig Erwich, who also counts Disney Branded TV president Ayo Davis as one of his direct reports.
In announcing the changes, Walden sent out a memo to employees, letting them know all the changes that she was preparing to make to vault Disney Entertainment to the top.
Since the announcement of Disney Entertainment, I’ve spent time thinking about how to organize my team in a way that will enable me to focus on my newly expanded role, in partnership with Alan. I will continue to rely on the same incredible leaders who have delivered hit after hit onto our platforms and into our rich library, but have made some changes to our structure, which are outlined below:
- Onyx Collective remains a huge priority, and as its impressive roster of creators and series continues to grow, Tara Duncan will now focus exclusively on Onyx.
- National Geographic Content recently earned its third Oscar nomination and has attracted some of the biggest stars to its impressive slate of series and doc films. Courteney Monroe will now oversee all aspects of the brand, including its digital footprint and iconic magazine, along with its original content strategy.
- Tara and Courteney will now report directly to John Landgraf, combining the strength of three prestigious brands.
- As Tara’s focus shifts to Onyx, Freeform programming and development will be combined with ABC Entertainment, and Simran Sethi will oversee both. This represents Simran’s return to a brand she helped launch. She will continue to report to Craig Erwich.
- Over the past six months, Ayo Davis and Craig have worked together very successfully on Disney Branded Televisionstreaming originals. Ayo will continue to report to Craig for streaming, and now that structure will expand to also include the development and programming of Disney Channel and Disney Junior.
- Debra OConnell, who recently joined my leadership team, will continue to oversee networks and ABC Owned Television Stations, and will add research, labor relations and TV business operations to her purview.
- Disney Television Studios will remain under Eric Schrier, who will expand his responsibilities to include our global original television strategy, working closely with our talented regional leaders.
Great stories are the lifeblood of our company, and I will remain deeply connected to the creative side of our business. As we begin our new chapter together, I have the utmost confidence in this team of proven and formidable leaders. I am very grateful to Bob for reuniting and realigning our company in such a meaningful way.
I want you all to know how much I appreciate your passion and your pursuit of excellence, which will be key to our success in the months and years ahead.
Walden has been a part of The Walt Disney Company since 2019, when Disney purchased 21st Century Fox. Walden came over with a close friend and colleague, Peter Rice, who made it clear that becoming CEO of Disney was what he wanted. Various reports indicate that then-CEO Bob Chapek may have been threatened by Rice’s outward desire to become CEO, which is why he shockingly fired Rice.
Chapek’s firing of Rice received a lot of backlash, but it was Walden’s promotion that had many wondering if she was the ultimate person to run Disney. Those who know Walden said that she may have been an even bigger threat to Chapek’s reign. Walden’s future as possible CEO became even more of a topic of conversation when Walden was made co-chair of Disney Entertainment.
Bob Iger is currently set to remain CEO through the end of 2024.