The move enhances Walden’s stature as one of the most powerful and prominent executives in the content business. Within Disney, it elevates Walden over her longtime peer John Landgraf of FX Networks. Walden’s purview includes ABC Entertainment, ABC News, Disney Branded Television, Disney Television Studios, Freeform, FX, Hulu Originals, National Geographic Content and Onyx Collective. She will now report directly to Chapek.
Rice, who served as chairman of general entertainment content, came to Disney with the acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2019, as did Walden. His firing comes as a shock to Disney insiders and the entertainment community.
“Dana is a dynamic, collaborative leader and cultural force who in just three years has transformed our television business into a content powerhouse that consistently delivers the entertainment audiences crave,” Chapek said. “Her well-earned reputation for championing creative talent and developing programming that truly captures the cultural zeitgeist has resulted in hit after hit, from ABC’s ‘Abbott Elementary’ and Onyx Collective’s Academy Award-winning ‘Summer of Soul,’ to Hulu Originals like ‘Only Murders in the Building,’ ‘Dopesick,’ ‘The Dropout’ and ‘The Kardashians.’ She and Peter have worked closely together for years to create the best programming in the industry, and I can think of no one better than Dana to lead Disney General Entertainment to even greater heights.”
The timing of the surprise move to remove Rice is curious given that the rumor mill at Disney was just starting to calm down after months of drama swirling around Chapek. The Disney CEO stumbled into a PR nightmare for the company with its political activities in Florida around the state’s anti-LGBT legislation and then made it worse with company statements that enraged many members of Disney’s workforce of nearly 200,000 employees.