Ayo Davis Joins Disney's Branded TV Division (Exclusive)

Ayo Davis-Publicity-H 2019
Craig Sjodin/ABC

Ayo Davis is changing gears at Disney.

The longtime casting executive has been promoted to the newly created position of exec vp creative development and strategy at the recently launched Disney Branded Television department. Most recently exec vp talent and casting at ABC and Disney+ Davis will now report to Gary Marsh, who was promoted this week to serve as chief creative officer and president of Disney Branded Television.

In her new role, Davis will now have oversight of scripted and unscripted series, movies and specials and will manage the teams for original development, current programming, original movies, unscripted content, casting and talent relations, integrated content strategy and the educational resource group.

Davis will be charged with leading a division that supplies Disney-branded content geared toward kids, tweens, teens and families for the Mouse House's vast portfolio, including Disney+, ABC, Freeform, Disney Channel, Disney XD and more.

"Ayo's sophistication and taste elevate every project she touches — and her impact on the television landscape is beyond measure," Marsh said. "As we embark on the mission of bringing more world-class content to Disney-branded platforms, I could not imagine a more perfect executive with whom to partner."

The new gig arrives as Davis, an 18-year Disney casting veteran, had been fielding multiple offers outside of Disney. Sources say she was being eyed for a role leading casting at Warner Bros. TV, where she would have reunited with former ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey. Disney fought to keep her in the fold.

"This is an exciting and incredible time of growth for Disney Branded Television," Davis said. "I am honored to work with Gary and his exceptional team in leveraging a strong legacy of storytelling to create engaging programming for generations of viewers to come."

Reporting to Davis in her new role are Disney Channel's Jonas Agin, vp original series; Kory Lunsford, vp current; Lauren Kisilevsky, vp original movies; Judy Taylor, senior vp casting and talent relations; Theresa Helmer, executive director integrated content strategy; Vicki Ariyasu, senior vp Educational Resource Group; and Disney+'s Dan Silver, vp originals unscripted.

Davis is a proven star-maker, having launched the ABC Discovers initiative that helped launch the careers of Lupita Nyong'o, Gina Rodriguez and Pedro Pascal. She helped to cast shows including The Good Doctor, American Crime, How to Get Away With Murder and Black-ish, among others, while serving as a champion for the likes of Viola Davis, Jesse Williams and Eva Longoria.

For his part, Marsh was promoted earlier this week as part of the latest wave of restructuring at Disney. The veteran Disney exec, who also renewed his deal with the company, expanded his duties from kids programming to all non-theatrical Disney-branded TV content made for tweens, teens and families, including live-action and animation. He will also oversee the Disney+ unscripted content and production teams. Marsh continues to report to Rice, chairman of Disney's General Entertainment Content unit.

It's unclear who will replace Davis, who previously reported to ABC entertainment president Karey Burke and oversaw casting and talent relations for both the broadcast network and streamer Disney+. That role is likely to be addressed as part of the next wave of Disney's executive realignment.

The reorganization started Oct. 12 when new CEO Bob Chapek shifted the company's priority to streaming. As part of the changes, Chapek tapped former consumer products president Kareem Daniel to oversee a new Media and Entertainment Distribution Group. That gave greater content control to studio leaders including Peter Rice while handing Daniel oversight of distribution, ad sales and such other business functions as budgets. The changes created what one top literary agent dubbed a "content czar and Supreme Court of buyers" at Disney. Other divisions within the Disney TV fold are expected to announce restructurings and layoffs as part of the larger moves at the company.  The restructuring is part of a companywide effort to prioritize streaming while also consolidating staff in bid to both better position the company for the future and trim costs. Layoffs are expected to come as the consolidation efforts are expected to continue throughout the TV division.