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Ayo Davis continues to rise through the ranks at Disney.
The longtime former casting exec has been promoted to serve as president of Disney Branded Television, replacing Gary Marsh in the role overseeing programming for kids and family for Disney+ and the company’s younger-focused linear channels.
Davis, who joined Disney Branded TV in November, will continue to work with Marsh through the end of the year on the transition. Marsh announced this week that he was stepping down after a 33-year run in Disney’s executive suites to launch a production company and develop new projects for the Mouse House.
In her new role, Davis will oversee Disney Branded TV programming, strategy, development, current, production, casting and business affairs for scripted, unscripted and animation fare for Disney+ as well as Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior. Since serving as exec vp creative development and strategy at the division, she has developed projects including From the Desk of Zoe Washington (with exec producer Kerry Washington); Sal & Gabi Break the Universe (from Eva Longoria) and House of Secrets, from Chris Columbus. Davis will continue to work closely with Disney’s various studios, including 20th Television and ABC Signature.
“We have been working with Ayo over the past year on scripted and unscripted series, and she’s second to none as a partner and collaborator. She has impeccable taste, great creative instincts, and she’s a generous human being. Her new appointment is well deserved,” said Blumhouse TV president Chris McCumber, who has been working with Davis on a docuseries and scripted show about the Detroit Youth Choir.
Davis, who was upped in November to the newly created position of exec vp creative development and strategy, is a 19-year Disney veteran who, at the time of her promotion, had been fielding multiple offers outside of the company. 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.
“Ayo is a focused leader with impeccable creative instincts who’s excelled in every role she’s held at Disney,” said Disney General Entertainment chairman Peter Rice, to whom she will now report. “Her creative eye for talent has made meaningful impact in front of and behind the camera, from iconic shows across our networks that were defined by their casting choices to building a roster of creator talent that will redefine family programming at Disney Branded Television. She’s the absolute perfect person to lead the team at a time they are broadening their remit to develop more family programming across streaming and cable distribution. I’m excited to watch all she will accomplish.”
Davis is a proven star-maker, having started 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.
“I am beyond grateful to Peter Rice and Gary Marsh for their extraordinary leadership, support and mentorship,” said Davis. “It’s a tremendous honor to continue Gary’s legacy of delighting kids and families through Disney Branded TV’s unparalleled storytelling, and it’s an amazing time for kids and family programming. I’m thrilled to continue working with my team, colleagues, our TV studios and, of course, the creators who trust us with their projects as we work to develop the next generation of beloved stories and franchises.”
As for Marsh, his Disney-backed development deal will see him prep content for across the conglomerate’s portfolio, including two new Descendants movies, the previously announced Disney+ Beauty and the Beast prequel series, Tink, School for Sensitive Souls and Witch Mountain.
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