The Walt Disney Company unveiled a sweeping reorganization on Wednesday, promoting a pair of executives and preparing the entertainment conglomerate for the eventual integration of assets from 21st Century Fox.
Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, did not mention Disney’s pending $52.4 billion acquisition of various Fox businesses, which still must receive government approval, in Wednesday’s announcement. Instead, he described the new structure as “strategically positioning our businesses for the future.”
Kevin Mayer, who has recently served as chief strategy officer, working on the purchases of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and BamTech, a streaming-focused company, was named chairman of a new Disney division: Direct-to-Consumer and International. The unit will be made up of Disney’s overseas media businesses; global advertising sales for ESPN, ABC and other channels; syndicated television sales; and — most importantly — a portfolio of subscription streaming services.
Those services, designed to make Disney competitive with the likes of Netflix and Amazon, include ESPN Plus, which will roll out this spring. A second and still unnamed offering, built around the Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar brands, is expected late next year. Rounding out Disney’s streaming portfolio will be Hulu, an established service that focuses on older viewers with programming that includes ABC shows.
Disney also promoted Robert Chapek, who has been chairman of Disney’s theme park division for the last three years. Mr. Chapek was named chairman of a new division called Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products, which adds merchandising, video games, book publishing and the Disney Store chain to his purview. Mr. Chapek was in charge of consumer products for Disney before he was promoted to theme park chairman in 2015.
The reorganization, which involves significant changes for every part of Disney except for the movie division, sets up a structure for Disney to absorb the Fox businesses. They include the Fox movie and television studio, a large portion of Hulu, 22 regional cable networks dedicated to sports, the FX and National Geographic channels, and stakes in two behemoth overseas TV service providers, Sky of Britain and Star of India.
The elevation of Mr. Mayer and Mr. Chapek was instantly read by some people in Hollywood as positioning either as a possible successor to Mr. Iger. Disney insiders cautioned against drawing that conclusion, however.
To complete the Fox integration, Mr. Iger, 66, agreed to renew his contract for a fourth time, delaying retirement from July 2019 to the end of 2021. Rupert Murdoch, who controls 21st Century Fox, asked Mr. Iger to stay as a condition of the deal, which was valued at $66.1 billion including debt.
As part of the restructuring, Andy Bird, the longtime chairman of Walt Disney International, is expected to leave the company. The management shuffling came a week after Disney named James Pitaro as president of ESPN. Mr. Pitaro previously oversaw consumer products.