Disney’s TV Division Makes Room for Fox Executives

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The Walt Disney Company announced on Monday that several Fox executives will assume top leadership positions at its television division, once its $71.3 billion deal to acquire much of 21st Century Fox is formally approved.

Peter Rice, the president of 21st Century Fox, will become the chairman of Walt Disney Television. In that role, Mr. Rice will oversee most of Disney’s vast television properties — including ABC, FX and National Geographic — with the notable exception of ESPN.

Dana Walden, a co-chief executive of the Fox Television Group, will become the chairwoman of Disney Television studios and ABC Entertainment. With the new appointment, Ms. Walden will run ABC, Freeform, local stations and the combined companies’ massive new television studio.

John Landgraf will remain the head of the FX cable network, the home of “Atlanta” and “American Horror Story,” and its studio. Gary Knell, the head of National Geographic, will also continue in his role.

To make way for the incoming team, Ben Sherwood, the current head of television at ABC and Disney, will leave the company once the deal is closed. Most of Disney’s other key TV executives — including Channing Dungey, the president of ABC Entertainment; Tom Ascheim, who runs Freeform; James Goldston, the president of ABC News; and Patrick Moran, the head of ABC Studios — will stay in their positions with one key difference: They will be reporting to new bosses.

Disney’s new executives will have their work cut out for them, with ABC facing significant challenges. The one major broadcast network that does not have rights to the National Football League, ABC has finished in last place for three consecutive seasons in the ratings. And three weeks into the 2018-19 season, it has shown no sign of improvement, with Nielsen numbers having plunged more than 30 percent for a hit ABC series of recent vintage, “The Good Doctor,” as well as for its aging reality franchise “Dancing With the Stars.”

Additionally, in the last year and a half, two key hitmakers left ABC Studios for Netflix: Shonda Rhimes and Kenya Barris. Freeform, the network’s cable channel aimed at millennials, has also seen a drop in viewership.

The executives who join Disney after years at Fox will find themselves in a corporate environment that is much different from what they are used to. Fox, controlled by the family of Rupert Murdoch, gives its executives a lot of free rein. Disney’s culture is more hierarchical, with clear lines of command that lead to one man: the company’s hands-on chief executive, Robert A. Iger.

“The strength of 21st Century Fox’s first-class management talent has always been a compelling part of this opportunity for us,” Mr. Iger said in a statement.

Mr. Rice, who will become one of the highest-ranked executives at Disney, has risen steadily within the Fox universe through a nearly 30-year career. He started as an intern at 20th Century Fox and later ran the company’s prestige film division, Fox Searchlight. Mr. Rice moved on to the television side in 2009 and became the president of 21st Century Fox in September 2017.

In his own statement, Mr. Rice said: “I love making television and have been fortunate to work with incredibly talented executives and storytellers. Disney is the world’s pre-eminent creative company, and I look forward to working for Bob, and with his exceptional leadership team, to build on that amazing legacy.”

The executive shuffle at Disney is part of a broader changing of the guard in the television industry. Leslie Moonves, the longtime chief executive of CBS, was ousted last month after numerous allegations of sexual misconduct were made against him. And NBC’s entertainment chairman, Robert Greenblatt, stepped down two weeks ago after eight years in charge.

Shareholders for Disney and Fox approved the combination of Disney and Fox in July. Although a major reason for the deal was to ensure that Disney would thrive in an industry that is becoming more dependent on streaming, the Monday announcement did not mention the role that the new executive team will play in Hulu. After its acquisition of much of Fox is approved, Disney will become the majority owner of the streaming service.

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