Disney Consolidates TV Studios Under Burke

ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke at TCA winter press tour 2020
Karey Burke (Image credit: ABC/Frank Micelotta)

Continuing the restructuring as the Walt Disney Co. emphasizes streaming, Walt Disney TV Chairman of Entertainment Dana Walden announced that Touchstone Television was being folded into 20th Television and that Karey Burke would move from president of ABC Entertainment to head the consolidated TV studio.

Dana Walden

Dana Walden (Image credit: Disney)

ABC entertainment programming will be overseen by Craig Erwich, who continues to oversee Hulu Originals as president of Hulu Originals and ABC Entertainment.

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Craig Hunegs, who had been president of Disney Television Studios, will become president of Entertainment, Walt Disney Television, working with Walden across all business units and leading business affairs, productions, casting and creative development and inclusion teams. Hunegs will also oversee 20th Animation and a newly formed production unit for unscripted programming.

Bert Salke, who had been president of Touchstone Television, gets a multi-year overall producing deal with Disney Television Studios.

ABC Signature remains separate from 20th Television and continues to be run by President Jonnie Davis.

Tara Duncan, president of Freeform, will oversee original content for the cable network. She will also be responsible for building a roster of diverse creators for all Disney TV platforms.

Under Burke at 20th Television, Carolyn Cassidy, who had been president, will become executive VP, development; and Jane Francis is moving from Touchstone to serve as executive VP, series, overseeing ongoing shows.  

Craig Erwich

Craig Erwich (Image credit: Hulu)

Disney recently separated its creative efforts from distribution and sales in order to focus on content for streaming platform Disney Plus and Hulu. The studios, under Walden, develop content for the streaming services as well as Disney’s linear networks and third parties.

“The changes we are announcing today are in service of three goals: rightsizing our organization, streamlining functions across our studios and original content teams, and strengthening our partnerships with the extraordinary creators who call Disney Television Studios their home,” Walden said.

It was unclear how the new structure would affect staffing levels.

Erwich and Tara Duncan, the president of Freeform, will have oversight of the original content teams responsible for choosing and managing development slates and greenlighting shows. Erwich will oversee Hulu Originals and ABC Entertainment, and Duncan will oversee Freeform. Both will continue to report to Walden. 

The new structure means that the Touchstone TV brand will be “sunsetted,”’ the company said, but Salke will remain working for Disney.

Craig Hunegs

Craig Hunegs (Image credit: Disney)

“We feel incredibly fortunate that Bert has chosen to set his production company up with Disney Television Studios,” said Walden. “He has impeccable taste and no one works harder or is more committed to creators, whether they are new voices or long-established hit makers. Writers can feel his passion and dedication, and that creates an environment where they can do great work.”

As previously announced, the restructuring also includes the centralization of marketing and publicity under Shannon Ryan, president, content marketing, Hulu and General Entertainment.

“This new organization under Dana will allow us to compete amidst a transforming industry by attracting the best talent, encouraging creative risk and facilitating the creation of groundbreaking series,” said Peter Rice, chairman, Disney General Entertainment Content, who in addition to Disney Television oversees units including FX and ABC News. “Dana is a hall of fame television executive leading an all-star team of the best and brightest creative leaders in Hollywood.”

Walden laid out the changes in a memos  to staff.

Here’s the memo:

Dear Team, 

In a few moments we will be announcing changes to the business units under my purview. This has been an extraordinarily difficult year, to say the least, and I am so grateful to you all for stepping up to meet challenge after challenge.  Our industry has been altered forever, and we are reorganizing to position ourselves strongly for the future and create an even better experience for our creative partners.  

The changes announced today follow the recent reorganization at The Walt Disney Company, which was designed to accelerate growth in its direct-to-consumer businesses. As part of that plan, the Company separated content creation from distribution and commercialization. Our role is to supply breakthrough original content to Disney’s best-in-class streaming platforms Disney+ and Hulu, linear networks and third-party platforms; and to choose the original content that will fuel the Hulu Originals, ABC Entertainment and Freeform programming slates.  

I am very lucky to be working with a group of leaders who are both gifted executives, and caring and compassionate people.  Throughout the planning for today's announcement, we spent countless hours evaluating the best structure for our businesses and our teams.  We believe that is what we have achieved.  And, our new simplified structure will facilitate clarity of responsibilities and stronger partnerships with our talented colleagues inside Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution. 

Here is how we are evolving our organization:  

Disney Television Studios will be consolidated into two studio teams led by Karey Burke and Jonnie Davis. 

Karey will move over from her role as President of ABC Entertainment and become the President of 20th Television, reporting to me. As part of this restructure, the Touchstone Television banner will sunset and its operations will be rolled into 20th Television. Working with Karey at the newly expanded studio, Carolyn Cassidy will serve as Executive Vice President, Development; and Jane Francis moves from Touchstone Television to become Executive Vice President, Series.

Jonnie will continue as President of ABC Signature, but will now report directly to me. 

Bert Salke will transition from President of Touchstone Television to a new multi-year overall producing deal with Disney Television Studios.  

Tara Duncan will continue as President of Freeform and will be responsible for building a roster of diverse creators to develop series across all platforms.

Craig Erwich will continue leading the Hulu Originals team and will additionally assume responsibilities previously held by Karey Burke at ABC Entertainment.  He will now serve as President of Hulu Originals and ABC Entertainment.

Craig Hunegs will move from his role as President of Disney Television Studios to President of Entertainment for Walt Disney Television, working with me across all areas.  He will lead newly centralized Business Affairs, Production, Casting and Creative Talent Development & Inclusion teams. He'll also oversee 20th Animation and a newly formed production unit for Unscripted Programming.

And as previously announced, Shannon Ryan will serve as President, Content Marketing, Hulu and General Entertainment, managing the creative marketing, publicity, media planning, events, talent relations and awards strategy for all the programming created across our group. 

The release below further details our new structure. 

These are exceptional creative leaders who have strong relationships throughout our industry and have already accomplished so much. I am certain they will continue to foster an environment where creators, showrunners, producers, directors and talent can do their very best work, and I am confident that their leadership will inspire all of you to do the same. 

I know there is discomfort with change, but I am optimistic about our future and am looking forward to working with you as we embark on this new chapter together. 

With gratitude, 


Jon Lafayette

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.