In a surprise turn of events, Dana Walden has been named Chairwoman of Disney General Entertainment Content at The Walt Disney Company (TWDC).
She replaces Peter Rice, whose sudden departure comes as a surprise to many in the entertainment community.
Rice and Walden both transitioned to The Walt Disney Company with the acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2019. Walden previously reported to Rice at TWDC, until his firing this week.
Reportedly, Rice has more than two years remaining on his contract and will receive a nice payout for his early dismissal.
According to industry magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, they say that “Chapek told Rice that he was not a fit in ‘the new Disney culture,’ to which Rice said words to the effect that he thought they were in the midst of building the new Disney culture. He asked in what way he did not fit and Chapek responded, ‘Now is not the time,’ and dismissed him.”
Rice was not mentioned in the official press release to announce Walden’s new role.
TWDC says that under Dana Walden’s leadership, ABC has been the No. 1 entertainment network for three consecutive seasons, which is the first time that has happened in 25 years.
Walden has overseen the production of such iconic hit series as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” “Bob’s Burgers,” and “9-1-1.”
Since assuming leadership of the Hulu Originals slate of series in 2019, the streamer has seen record viewership for hits such as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Little Fires Everywhere,” and “Nine Perfect Strangers.”
“It is an incredible honor to be asked to lead this amazingly talented team—they are truly the absolute best in every respect—and I am grateful to Bob for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Walden said.
“Disney General Entertainment’s culture of creative excellence and originality has made us home to many of the most talented creators in the business. I am humbled to lead this team, and I am confident that together, we will continue to build on the foundation of culture-defining entertainment we have achieved so far.”
In her new role, Dana Walden will lead the company’s general entertainment content division that creates original entertainment and news programming for Disney’s streaming platforms, along with its cable and broadcast networks.
She will have oversight of ABC Entertainment, ABC News, Disney Branded Television, Disney Television Studios, Freeform, FX, Hulu Originals, National Geographic Content, and Onyx Collective.
She will report directly to Bob Chapek, Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company.
“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 in a press release announcing Walden’s promotion.
“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.”
In a separate statement from Disney board chair Susan Arnold, the board said that “in this important time of business growth and transformation, we are committed to keeping Disney on the successful path it is on today.”
The statement added: “The strength of The Walt Disney Company’s businesses coming out of the pandemic is a testament to Bob’s leadership and vision for the company’s future. In this important time of business growth and transformation, we are committed to keeping Disney on the successful path it is on today, and Bob and his leadership team have the support and confidence of the Board.”
The vote of support from the board comes as Chapek’s current contract is set to end in February 2023.