Janice Marinelli Leaving The Walt Disney Company

In a surprise move, Janice Marinelli July 16 announced that she will step down from her role as president of Global Content Sales & Distribution for The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer & International (DTCI) segment, ending a 34-year career at the media giant.

Marinelli previously headed Disney’s home entertainment operations, which she continued to oversee in her latest role, which she assumed in December 2018.

Industry sources had anticipated a big announcement from Disney on July 15, with speculation that Marinelli on that date would announce the new home entertainment team behind both Disney and 20th Century Fox product. Longtime Fox home entertainment chief Mike Dunn left shortly after the March 20 completion of the merger, while James Finn, one of the division’s two top marketers, announced his departure earlier this month. Julia Howe, the other top home entertainment marketing executive, is still there, sources said.

“It has been an honor to work for this company and a privilege to work with so many outstanding professionals,” Marinelli said in a statement. “I’ve observed many changes in our industry over the years, and it is changing at a speed never seen before. While I have been considering this decision for some time, I was committed to seeing our team through the acquisition and integration of 21st Century Fox. Now that we’ve reached these important milestones, I believe the time is right for me to step down.”

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At the December 2017 Video Hall of Fame ceremony in Beverly Hills, Marinelli drew solid applause — and more than a few chuckles — when she advised her fellow home entertainment executives to “just keep swimming.” As Media Play News observed at the time, “The line, from the hit Disney film Finding Nemo, seemed to resonate with the several hundred execs in the room, many of whom have been contending with increasingly choppy seas for the better part of a decade.”

Kevin Mayer, chairman of DTCI, said Marinelli contributed “immeasurably” to Disney over the past three decades architecting and successfully negotiating “thousands of innovative” deals that benefited the company.

“I am so grateful for her insightful counsel and steadfast collaboration over the past year as we laid the foundation for DTCI and the upcoming launch of Disney+,” Mayer said. “I especially appreciate her willingness to stay on and see us through this time of tremendous change.”

As president of Global Content Sales & Distribution for Disney’s DTCI segment, Marinelli oversaw Disney’s program sales operations and distribution of the company’s direct-to-consumer apps to global accounts and broadcasters worldwide. She led the global distribution of film and television programming via home entertainment, broadcasting platforms, digital platforms, SVOD, pay networks, Hulu, the Movies Anywhere app and the upcoming Disney-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service Disney+.

Marinelli’s sales and distribution teams worked across domestic and international media markets by providing high-quality content created by Disney’s Studio Entertainment and Media Networks groups.

Under her direction, the division distributed properties from Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox Film, Fox Animation, Disneynature, ABC Studios, ABC Entertainment, National Geographic, FX Productions, 20th Century Fox Television, WABC, Freeform, Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior to broadcasters, digital services and other distributors around the world.

Marinelli and her team gave consumers in domestic and international home entertainment media markets a myriad of viewing choices while providing the most compelling and entertaining films in the industry.
Fueled by the studio’s box office success, the division implemented new technologies and created a superior in-home viewing experience for its customers to drive both digital and physical ownership.

She also oversaw product development and marketing strategies for Disney’s portfolio of brands and franchises across all in-home platforms. Most recently, the in-home division vigorously expanded into the 4K UHD premium format and her team also managed the re-releases of the powerhouse classic titles from the vault as part of The Walt Disney Signature Collection.

As the architect and dealmaker behind Movies Anywhere, Marinelli drove the development of the free app and website that has revolutionized digital ownership by bringing the film libraries of five studios together in a virtual one-stop movie-watching shop.

After Marinelli and her team successfully launched Disney Movies Anywhere in 2017, she subsequently brokered deals with Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. to join the initiative to transform digital movie purchase and engagement. She also spearheaded negotiations with digital retailers including Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, FandangoNOW, Microsoft Movies & TV, and Comcast Xfinity.

Fueled by the studio’s box office success, the division implemented new technologies and created a superior in-home viewing experience for its customers to drive both digital and physical ownership.

She also oversaw product development and marketing strategies for Disney’s portfolio of brands and franchises across all in-home platforms. Most recently, the in-home division vigorously expanded into the 4K UHD premium format and her team also managed the re-releases of the powerhouse classic titles from the vault as part of The Walt Disney Signature Collection.

Marinelli joined Disney’s Buena Vista Television in 1985 as an account executive. She later served as director of sales, western division before assuming the role of senior vice president of sales. She was named executive vice president in 1996 and president in 1999. Marinelli was appointed as president of Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and Television Distribution in 2013 and was promoted to her role with DTCI in 2018.

Disney to Close 20th Century Fox Acquisition on March 20

The Walt Disney Co. March 12 said it expects to close its $71.3 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox Film Corp. and related businesses on March 20.

In a filing, Disney said 21st Century Fox shareholders have until March 14 to decide how they wish to receive their share/cash-based compensation. Disney said it would calculate the amount of cash and/or shares of new Disney common stock to be distributed to each 21st Century Fox stockholder based on all valid elections received and in accordance with the merger agreement.

About half ($35.7 billion) of the acquisition price is in cash.

Consummation of the mega merger makes Disney the largest Hollywood studio, in addition to majority owner of Hulu and online TV subsidiary Hulu with Live TV.

In its most-recent fiscal period, 20th Century Fox Studios reported operating income of $193 million, a 47% increase over the $131 million reported in the previous-year quarter.

Quarterly segment revenue decreased 4% to $2.16 billion, from $2.24 billion, primarily reflecting lower home entertainment revenue at the film studio and lower syndication revenue at the television production studio.

Through half the fiscal year (ended Dec. 31, 2018), revenue dropped less than 6% at $3.97 billion, compared with $4.2 billion in the previous-year period.

Brazil Approves Disney/20th Century Fox Merger

Brazil regulators have approved The Walt Disney Co.’s $71.3 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox Film and related businesses — paving the way for consummation of the Hollywood mega-merger first announced in December 2017.

The slow-moving antitrust hurdle represented one of the last challenges to Disney’s merger with Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox entertainment division.

Brazilian authorities sought and achieved Disney’s divesture of Fox Sports channel in the South American country. Disney also owns ESPN Brazil channel. Fox Sports owns rights to key soccer competitions in the region.

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A similar situation exists in the U.S. where the Justice Department ruled Disney has to sell off its stake in 22 regional Fox Sports channels since it owns ESPN.

European Union officials ordered Disney sell its European — not U.S. — stake in A&E Networks.

“Currently, there is only one big-screen rival capable of competing with these channels,” Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defense said in a statement as reported by the Los Angeles Times. The agency said separating Fox Sports from Disney “aims to eliminate competitive concerns in the pay-TV sports channel market.”

Disney to Demonstrate DTC Service Disney+ April 11

The Walt Disney Co. will demonstrate its pending direct-to-consumer streaming service Disney+ and offer a first look at some of the original content being created by the company’s TV and film studios exclusively for the service at an investor day presentation April 11, the company announced.

Also, effective for the first quarter of fiscal 2019, the company will begin reporting segment operating results for four segments: media networks; studio entertainment; parks, experiences and consumer products; and direct-to-consumer and international (DTCI), the company reported Jan. 18 in a filing with the SEC. In the Form 8-K, the company also recast financial results for the past three fiscal years to reflect the reorganization of Disney’s business segments. In the fiscal year ended Sept. 29, 2018, recast numbers show the DTCI segment with a loss of $738 million.

“Our top priority is fully leveraging our global brands and great content to create world-class direct-to-consumer entertainment,” said Disney chairman and CEO Robert A. Iger in a statement. “We have the structure and management in place to drive growth in our DTC business, and our acquisition of 21st Century Fox further enhances our ability to deliver significant value to consumers and shareholders.”

“Acquiring BAMTech enabled us to enter the DTC space quickly and effectively, as demonstrated by the success of ESPN+,” Iger said in a statement. “The service surpassed 1 million subscribers in its first five months and continues to grow as it expands its content mix, all of which bodes well for our upcoming launch of Disney+. The ability to connect directly with millions of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars fans creates tremendous opportunities for growth. In addition to leveraging our existing IP in new ways, we’re making significant investments in original content exclusively for Disney+, creating an impressive pipeline of high-quality movies and series we believe will make the streaming service even more compelling for consumers.”

The slate of Disney+ content currently in production includes the first-ever live-action Star Wars series “The Mandalorian”; an original series based on Disney Channel’s “High School Musical”; an animated series based on Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” franchise; a new season of the “Star Wars” animated series “Clone Wars”; a live-action version of the animated classic Lady and the Tramp; and original docu-series. A live-action Marvel series starring Tom Hiddleston and a second “Star Wars” series starring Diego Luna are also in development, the company announced.

Skydance Media Names Former Pixar CCO John Lasseter Head of Animation

In a controversial move, former Pixar Animation Studios chief creative officer John Lasseter has been named head of Skydance Animation.

Lasseter, who abruptly resigned from The Walt Disney Co. in 2017 following allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior, will report to David Ellison, CEO, Skydance Media, in Santa Monica beginning later this month.

“We did not enter into this decision lightly,” Ellison said in a statement. “John has acknowledged and apologized for his mistakes and, during the past year away from the workplace, has endeavored to address and reform them.”

Ellison said Lasseter is a singular creative and executive talent whose impact on the animation industry cannot be overstated.

“He was responsible for leading animation into the digital age, while telling incomparable stories that continue to inspire and entertain audiences around the globe,” Ellison said.

Indeed, Lasseter’s signature animation style to Pixar’s films grossing more than $11 billion in global box-office receipts. Lasseter was the executive producer of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Academy Award-winning feature Frozen (2013), which also won an Academy Award for best original song (Let It Go). The film, which crossed the $1 billion mark in March 2014, is the number one animated feature of all time.

Lasseter made his directorial debut in 1995 with Toy Story, the world’s first feature-length computer-animated film, for which he received a Special Achievement Academy Award recognizing his inspired leadership of the filmmaking team. He and the rest of Toy Story’s screenwriting team earned an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay, marking the first time an animated feature had ever been recognized in that category.

Lasseter also directed A Bug’s Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Cars (2006) and Cars 2 (2011). Lasseter executive produced all Pixar features since Monsters, Inc. (2001), including the studio’s eight Academy Award-winners Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Ratatouille (2007), WALL•E (2008), Up (2009), Toy Story 3 (2010), Brave (2012), and Inside Out (2015), as well as films The Good Dinosaur (2015), Finding Dory (2016), Cars 3 (2017), Coco (2017) and Incredibles 2 (2018).

Lasseter said he was grateful to David and the Skydance team for the opportunity and acknowledged being entrusted with an “enormous” responsibility.

“I have spent the last year away from the industry in deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for,” Lasseter said. “It has been humbling, but I believe it will make me a better leader.”

In his new role, Lasseter will be responsible for setting the overall strategy and creative direction for Skydance Animation. He will drive the division’s artistic growth, overseeing production and operations, to ensure a robust slate of animated entertainment across all media.

Established in 2017, Skydance Animation has embarked on a multi-year partnership with Ilion Animation Studios, a dedicated CGI feature animation studio based in Madrid, to develop and produce a slate of high-end animated feature films and television series.

Its first two animated feature-length films have been announced: Luck, directed by Alessandro Carloni and written by Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger and an Untitled Action Fantasy, directed by Vicky Jenson and written by Linda Woolverton.

Disney/Verizon Partnering for 5G Media, Entertainment

The Walt Disney Co. and Verizon Communications reportedly are partnering to explore entertainment and media opportunities in the nascent 5G wireless network platform.

5G claims to be able to deliver upwards of 10 gigabits of data per second, which could enable the downloading of a movie within seconds on a smartphone versus many minutes on 4G.

Disney’s upstart StudioLab unit is working with Verizon testing 5G applications for the distribution of content.

“We see 5G changing everything about how media is produced and consumed,” Jamie Voris, chief technology officer at Disney Studios, told Variety, which first reported the pact.

Verizon last October launched 5G network capability in four cities – a move rivaled by competitor AT&T. Still in the early stages of deployment and functionality, 5G marketing and hype – however – has shown no limits.

When AT&T recently changed the old 4G LTE logo to 5G on branded smartphones, Verizon (and T-Mobile) cried foul.

“The potential to over-hype and under-deliver on the 5G promise is a temptation that the wireless industry must resist,” Verizon wrote in a letter reported by Endgadget (which Verizon owns). “We’re calling on the broad wireless industry to commit to labeling something 5G only if new device hardware is connecting to the network using new radio technology to deliver new capabilities.”

T-Mobile, in a post on Twitter, was slightly less diplomatic, tweeting a video showing someone sticking a “9G” sticker on an iPhone with the following caption: “Didn’t realize it was this easy, brb updating.”

Indeed, without a 5G-capable phone, simply claiming to be able to deliver content faster over old technology is disingenuous.

“People need a clear, consistent and simple understanding of 5G so they are able to compare services, plans and products, without having to maneuver through marketing double-speak or technical specifications,” wrote Verizon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disney+ SVOD Service Names Joe Earley Head of Marketing/Operations

The Walt Disney Co. has hired long-time TV executive Joe Earley as EVP of marketing and operations for its pending Disney+ subscription streaming video service.

Earley, who once headed marketing/operations at Fox Broadcasting Co., most recently was president of The Jackal Group — a Los Angeles-based  television, film, commercial theater and digital studio.

At Disney+, Earley is expected to leverage his industry connections for the SVOD platform launching in the fourth quarter.

“Joe’s industry knowledge and understanding of where the global entertainment marketplace is going will be a key component as we launch and expand the Disney+ footprint,” said Ricky Strauss, president, content and marketing, Disney+, to whom Earley reports.

“The breadth of his experience in both content marketing and production, combined with the quality of his relationships in our industry will be huge assets to Disney+,” Strauss said.

 

Disney’s Janice Marinelli Upped to President, Global Content Sales and Distribution Following Fox Acquisition

Longtime Disney home entertainment executive Janice Marinelli has been promoted to president, global content sales and distribution as part of planned management changes following the media giant’s $71 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox Film Corp.

Marinelli, who had been president of Disney/ABC Home Entertainment and Television Distribution, reports to Kevin Mayer, chairman of The Walt Disney Co.’s direct-to-consumer & international segment.

Separately, Rebecca Campbell, president, The Walt Disney Company EMEA,  continues in her position with added oversight of Russia and former satellite countries in the Soviet Union.

Jan Koeppen, president of Fox Networks Group Europe and Africa, will transition to president, television and direct-to-consumer, The Walt Disney Company EMEA.

Carlos Martinez, president, Fox Networks Group, Latin America, becomes EVP and GM, Media Networks, North and Brazil, The Walt Disney Company Latin America.

Marina Jigalova-Ozkan continues as managing director for Disney’s direct-to-consumer business, Russia and CIS.

Diego Lerner, president, The Walt Disney Company Latin America, continues in his position, while Uday Shankar, president, 21st Century Fox, Asia, and CEO of Star India, becomes chairman, Star and Disney India, and president, The Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific.

All report to Mayer.

“The planned restructuring of our business units outside of the U.S. will result in a stronger, more agile organization, one that is better able to pivot and capitalize on the many opportunities present in today’s fast-changing and increasingly complex global marketplace,” Mayer said in a statement. “Once the acquisition is complete, all three regions will be led by exceptional, highly experienced executives who will combine the ‘best of the best’ talent from both organizations. This new structure and the outstanding leadership team we’ve put in place are clear demonstrations of our strong commitment to integrating operations and thoughtfully executing our strategic priorities around the globe.”

Marinelli spoke a year ago at the Dec. 2017 Variety Hall of Fame awards dinner and ceremony, drawing solid applause when she advised her fellow home entertainment executives to “just keep swimming.”

The line, from the hit Disney film Finding Nemo, seemed to resonate with the several hundred execs in the room, many of whom have been contending with increasingly choppy seas for the better part of a decade.

Later, she doubled down on her beliefs in the home entertainment sector – including the physical disc – in an interview with Media Play News.

“Pysical consumption continues to be a vibrant, viable and top-performing line of business for us and it is also proving to be a very valuable resource in the transition to digital with e-copy redemption,” she said. “This year the in-home division broke and set new records with four bestselling physical titles in the top 10 to date including tentpoles Star Wars: Rogue OneMoanaGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Beauty and the Beast.  As viewing habits and consumer consumption rapidly evolve, we continue to evaluate our offerings on a regular basis and what will best meet the needs and demands of our customers.  This year we vigorously expanded into the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray premium format beginning with inaugural title Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which quickly rose to the top of the industry’s 4K physical sales chart.”

She also talked up digital ownership, with a nod to the then just-launched Movies Anywhere service for movies. “Consumer centricity was without a doubt a defining characteristic of 2017, which was most notably addressed by the launch of the multi-studio digital locker Movies Anywhere,” she said. “Movies Anywhere is a huge win for the consumer, providing them with more freedom, flexibility and utility and their digital library can now be viewed through a range of devices and digital retailers, anytime and anywhere. The strength of the studios and digital retailers that have come together at launch is unprecedented.”

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ to Hit Netflix Dec. 25

Disney may be leaving Netflix, but not without a parting Christmas gift.

The Disney/Marvel blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War, which has earned more than $678.8 million at the box office, will come out on the streaming platform on Christmas day, according to Netflix.

The streaming platform’s NX on Netflix Twitter account tweeted, “Oh, snap. Avengers: Infinity War is coming to @Netflix on December 25.”

Disney is readying the unveiling of its own streaming service in 2019, Disney+, which will be fueled by Disney content, including that from Marvel and Lucasfilm, which has the “Star Wars” franchise.

After helping grow Netflix with a streaming deal in 2012, The Walt Disney Co. in 2017 announced it would be withdrawing its content from the service to build its own subscription platform.

At a May 14, 2018, MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit in New York, Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos was asked about the impact of Disney going direct-to-consumer and the pending loss of its original movies.

“People always ask me, ‘Where you surprised Disney is going to go direct?’ I don’t know what took them so long, exactly,” said Sarandos.

Still, he said the loss of Disney content wasn’t much of a blow.

“[Our subs] watch [Disney movies], but it wasn’t particularly passionate watching and those films are widely available on a bunch of other channels,” Sarandos said.

Disney Has Big Plans for Hulu

Hulu may be losing millions in equity for its corporate parents, but that isn’t stopping The Walt Disney Co. from dreaming big going forward about the 11-year-old SVOD service and online TV platform.

Disney, which attributed $10 million in Q4 equity losses to higher programming, marketing and labor costs at Hulu, partially offset by growth in subscription (20+ million) and advertising revenue, will become majority (60%) owner of the SVOD when its acquisition of 20thCentury Fox Film Corp. is finalized.

Hulu’s other corporate owners include Comcast (30%) and WarnerMedia (10%).

Speaking Nov. 8 on the fiscal call, Disney CEO Bob Iger thinks Hulu’s sub growth, brand strength and user demographics portend an opportunity to increase investment in Hulu – especially on programming.

“With this [Fox] acquisition comes not only some great IP, but some excellent talent, particularly on the television side,” Iger said. “And we aim to use the television production capabilities of the combined company to fuel Hulu with a lot more original programming … [content] that we feel will enable Hulu to compete even more aggressively in the marketplace.”

Specifically, Iger cited Hulu’s younger user base – apparently 20 years younger than competitors Netflix and Amazon Prime Video – and penchant for off-network content.

“And that’s clearly attractive to advertisers, which I think has been somewhat underappreciated about Hulu in that it … can offer targeted ads,” Iger said.

Hulu’s base $7.99 subscription plan features ad-supported content, while the $11.99 plan is ad-free. Iger says the service – especially the $39.99 Hulu With Live TV – has some price elasticity of demand.

“I think there’s an opportunity to improve – or I should say increase our pricing there,” he said.

Notably, Iger envisions Hulu focusing on general and edgier entertainment (i.e. Fox’s “American Horror Story” and R-rated movies), with Disney+ catering to softer fare.

“We’ll leave the more family-oriented programming to the Disney+ app,” he said.