Disney Shake-Up: Ricky Strauss Moves to Streaming Service, Asad Ayaz Named Marketing Boss

Courtesy of Disney
Ricky Strauss (left), Asad Ayaz

Strauss, who has led marketing for Disney's film studio for six years, is transitioning to a new role running content and marketing for the entertainment company's forthcoming streaming service.

Disney film marketing chief Ricky Strauss has been named president of content and marketing for the entertainment conglomerate's forthcoming streaming service.

Asad Ayaz will assume the role of president of marketing for the studio, succeeding Strauss, who has guided theatrical marketing campaigns during a time of unprecedented boom for Disney. Insiders say Strauss' appointment signals the importance Disney brass is assigning to the new streaming service, which is expected to launch in late 2019.

In his new role, Strauss is tasked with developing the strategic content vision for Disney's streaming service. He will oversee development of the service's original programming slate, production partnerships and content acquisitions. Strauss will have creative oversight and execution of feature films, episodic series and short-form content. Agnes Chu, the former ABC executive who was one of the first people tapped for a role with the streaming service, will continue as senior vp content for the service, reporting to Strauss.

Strauss also will be responsible for marketing for the service, which will serve as the main streaming hub for Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar IP. Michael Paull, the president of Disney Streaming Services and the CEO of Disney-owned BAMTech, and his team will remain responsible for product, technology, distribution, customer acquisition and lifestyle marketing. Strauss will report to Kevin Mayer, the newly named chairman of Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International.

Ayaz has been Strauss' top lieutenant in Disney's marketing division, which oversees the campaigns for films from the studio proper, Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel. Ayaz will report to Walt Disney Studios president Alan Bergman.

"We're so thankful for Ricky's leadership, and when it came time to pass the torch, it was clear there is no one more equipped or deserving to take the reins of our marketing organization than Asad Ayaz, who has been a key driver in evolving our marketing strategy and mobilization," Bergman said.

Additionally, distribution chief Cathleen Taff has been upped to president of distribution, franchise management and business and audience insights.

"We are fortunate to have a wealth of talented leaders at The Walt Disney Studios, and even as the wonderful Ricky Strauss takes on a new role for Disney's streaming service, the elevation of our own Asad Ayaz and Cathleen Taff provides continuity of leadership alongside new and diverse perspectives that keep our business ahead of the curve," Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said.

Added Strauss, "I look forward to collaborating with the many talented content creators around the company to expand the exceptional collection of assets that will make up the future Disney-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service."

Disney first signaled its plans to build out a streaming service last August, when it announced that it would pull its movies from Netflix in preparation for a competitive offering.

Over the last year, the company has slowly constructed its infrastructure for the new service, appointing Mayer to oversee the division that will house the yet-to-be-named product. In addition to offering access to a library of Disney movies and TV shows, the subscription service will also feature original programming, including a Jon Favreau-penned live-action Star Wars series, an animated Monsters Inc. series and a live-action Marvel project.

Strauss was named president of marketing in 2012. He joined Disney from Participant Media, where he served as president, overseeing the company's film slate and other initiatives. At Disney, Strauss can lay claim to helping the studio secure nine of the 10 biggest domestic openings in box-office history.

"Being a part of this extraordinary team, working on the equally extraordinary content from our world-class film studios, has been such a privilege," Ayaz said of his promotion. "And it's truly an honor to have the opportunity to step up and lead this group."