Rice, who joined The Walt Disney Co. when 21st Century Fox was acquired last year, is king of the Magic Kingdom when it comes to television content. He is responsible for the mine that produces more than 4,500 hours of TV programming a month. He’s also responsible for sorting which shows go to which outlet, a new Mandalorian for high-profile streaming service Disney Plus, another “Bachelor” for ABC to broadcast or a Fargo for FX and Duck Tails for Disney Channel on cable, and even election coverage on ABC News.
Disney has pivoted to streaming, which has changed everything from the way its business is structured to the way it measures results. In October, Disney CEO Bob Chapek separated the people who create content from those concerned with profit and loss, distribution, advertising and technology, including managing Disney’s streaming services and domestic TV networks.
Rice explained the new mandate in a Nov. 10 memo to his staff: “For our team, this means we will wholly focus our resources and efforts on developing, producing and marketing exceptional content to fuel the company’s streaming and linear platforms while our colleagues at Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution will distribute and monetize that content and run the linear networks and streaming platforms.”
Most of Rice’s group had been focused on linear TV networks. “As we look to the future and how consumers choose to watch their programming, this reorganization is an opportunity for us to fully focus on what we do best, making great programming for viewers wherever they choose to watch their favorite shows,” he said in the memo.
Making better television — and lots of it — might be Disney’s key advantage as it challenges Netflix for streaming superiority. The new structure should let him stick to storytelling in a business where successful creative executives tend to get bigger and bigger loads of business and administrative duties heaped on them.
“He was already functioning as head of the television studio and spent about 75% of his time on development, talent and scaling production,” an exec familiar with the situation said. “I think he’s really happy with this.”
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.