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Joe Earley continues to climb the ranks at Disney.
The former Fox executive has been named president of direct-to-consumer at Disney Entertainment, effectively adding Disney+ to a purview that already included oversight of Hulu. Earley will fill the void created by Michael Paull, who had served as president of direct-to-consumer at Disney Entertainment since January 2022 after joining the Mouse House in late 2017. Paull is leaving Disney after a six-year run.
“Joe has proven himself to be an extraordinary asset and is uniquely positioned for this role as we guide Disney’s streaming strategy into the future,” said Alan Bergman and Dana Walden, who made the announcement Wednesday. “His vast industry experience and deep understanding of what sets our prestigious portfolio of brands apart will be essential as we build on our robust direct-to-consumer efforts. Joe is a talented, passionate leader, committed to creative excellence, and we look forward to partnering with him in this next chapter.”
In his new role, Earley will work with content teams across the company to expand streaming efforts, drive programming and engagement across Disney+ and Hulu. He will continue to lead Hulu until a successor is identified for the role. The news comes as Disney and NBCUniversal have been battling over the valuation of Hulu in the press. Disney retains a controlling stake in the streamer and has until 2024 to make a decision on whether to buy Comcast’s stake.
Earley joined Disney in early 2019 and oversaw marketing and operations in the lead-up to the launch of Disney+ in November 2019. He added content curation duties in 2021 as the streamer expanded worldwide. He was named Hulu president in January 2022.
“Helping launch Disney+ was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and Hulu has been inspiring and rewarding,” Earley said in a statement. “I’m incredibly grateful to Dana and Alan for their confidence and the opportunity to lead both of these incredible teams during this time of transformation across the streaming landscape.”
The new role comes after Earley previously spent more than two decades as chief operating officer at the former Fox Television Group, where he oversaw marketing, digital, research, scheduling, audience strategy and more for the group that formerly included the Fox broadcast network and the now Disney-controlled 20th Television studio. After leaving Fox, Earley segued to president of indie studio The Jackal Group alongside former Fox exec Gail Berman.
Earley’s promotion comes two months after Walden and Bergman were handed oversight of streaming and international as part of a company-wide reorganization under CEO Bob Iger that returned business decisions back to creative execs and dismantled former CEO Bob Chapek’s divisive Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution division. At the time, Paull — who had served as head of streaming and helped launch ESPN+ — was moved to reporting to Kareem Daniel. Daniel was Chapek’s top lieutenant and headed the DMED division. After Disney stunned the industry by recruiting Iger back to the CEO suite to replace Chapek, Daniel was the first to go. Earley previously reported to Paull under Chapek and Daniel’s structure.
Paull’s exit comes as Disney is in the process of eliminating an estimated 7,000 jobs as Iger looks to right-size the company with a new executive structure as part of a larger plan to create $5.5 billion in cost savings. Layoffs have already hit various parts of the company’s TV production and acquisition units, ABC News and other divisions.
Earley, it’s worth noting, had worked closely with Walden for years during the latter’s former tenure atop 20th Television and the Fox broadcast network. Walden was among the key executives who moved over to Disney a few years ago as part of the company’s $73 billion Fox acquisition that included the TV and film studios, among other assets.
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