Disney's Post-Fox Leadership Plans: 3 Burning Questions

Dana Walden and Peter Rice -Split-Getty -H 2018
Charley Gallay/Getty Images; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Who stays and who goes? How long will two studios last? What does a supersized FX look like, anyway?

With Tuesday’s confirmation that Peter Rice and Dana Walden would take top roles at the expanded Disney conglomerate after its $71.3 billion Fox acquisition, TV industry talk now turns to the remaining questions (including how Fox, with its edgier programming and flashier executives, will jell with Disney’s more conservative culture).

• Who stays, who goes?

As Disney looks to shave $2.6 billion from executive overlap, several key players, including reality chief Rob Mills and head of casting Ayo Davis, are fielding interest from elsewhere. At the center of speculation is ABC’s Channing Dungey, who became the first black entertainment president when she entered the job in 2016. Now, Dungey reports directly to former rival Walden — but for how long?

Already, there are whispers of Walden ultimately wanting one of her own in the ABC position, though sources insist there are no near-term plans for change. Dungey, for her part, won’t lack for options. In fact, she’s said to have been approached for key gigs elsewhere, including at Shonda Rhimes’ Netflix-based company, sources say.

Meanwhile, Walden favorites like casting guru and close pal Sharon Klein are expected to transition to Disney, while others, like entertainment president Michael Thorn and drama chief Charlie Andrews, are said to be staying put at New Fox.

How long will two studios last?

As anticipated, Disney announced plans to keep both ABC Studios and 20th Century Fox TV (and its cable/streaming-centric offshoot, Fox 21) intact, at least for now. With that came news that 20th TV’s Jonnie Davis and Howard Kurtzman, along with Fox 21’s Bert Salke, all will become Disney employees, though the trio and their teams are expected to remain in West Los Angeles. Given the relative size and scale of 20th and ABC Studios — the former considerably larger than the latter — rolling them into one entity would have proved a short-term challenge.

But many around town are left wondering how it all will work. The studios, after all, have long competed for talent (Dan Fogelman, for instance, left ABC frustrated, only to sign a megadeal at 20th, where he launched This Is Us), and their ethos and dealmaking styles differ greatly.

What does a supersized FX look like, anyway?

John Landgraf’s purview will not change — by his choice, say multiple sources. What will, however, is his budget. Until now, FX had been competing with a programming budget a fraction the size of its premium and streaming rivals — in fact, two sources peg it at less than $1?billion. (By comparison, Amazon is expected to spend one-fourth that on global rights to a single series, Lord of the Rings.) But how much and how quickly FX will grow remains yet another question.  

This story first appeared in the Oct. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.