Veteran Warner Bros. studio executive Craig Hunegs is joining Walt Disney Co. as president of Disney Television Studios, becoming the latest high-profile recruit as the Burbank company seeks to turbocharge its television production capabilities.
Disney’s proposed acquisition of much of 21st Century Fox was driven, in part, by Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger’s recognition that the company needed to dramatically expand its television output. The ABC television studio became overly reliant on a handful of showrunners, including Shonda Rhimes, who decamped for a bigger deal at Netflix. ABC has leaned on outside studios, including 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures Television and Warner Bros., for much of its hit programming.
Consolidating Fox’s prolific television and movie studios is designed to ramp up production to feed Disney’s planned streaming services, including Hulu and Disney+, which the company plans to launch later this year. Disney will absorb Fox’s 30% stake in Hulu, increasing its ownership to 60%.
Hunegs, who is respected in the industry, spent nearly 25 years at Burbank-based Warner Bros. He left at the end of last year and will join Disney upon the completion of the $71.3-billion Fox acquisition. That purchase is expected to be completed later this month. Hunegs will report to Dana Walden, who has run Fox’s TV studio for two decades. When the Fox acquisition is complete, she will become chairwoman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment, which includes the ABC television network, Freeform cable channel and Disney-owned television stations.
Disney’s television group soon will be led by longtime Fox executives, including Walden, FX Networks Chief Executive John Landgraf and business affairs executive Ravi Ahuja, who was tapped this week to become chief financial officer for Walt Disney Television. The entire group will be managed by Peter Rice, a 30-year Fox movie and TV veteran, who has long been part of the Rupert Murdoch family’s inner circle. All of the appointments will be effective when the Disney-Fox deal is finalized.
In the newly created position, Hunegs, 59, will have oversight of the combined Disney Television Studios, which will include ABC Studios, ABC Signature, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox 21 Television Studios.
Reporting to Hunegs will be ABC Studios President Patrick Moran; 20th Century Fox Television Presidents Jonathan Davis and Howard Kurtzman; and Fox 21 Television Studios President Bert Salke.
Hunegs was president of business and strategy for the Warner Bros. Television Group and president of Warner Bros. Digital Networks. His December departure from his longtime home came just six months after AT&T acquired Warner Bros.’ parent, Time Warner Inc., and signaled a change in digital strategy.
While at Warner Bros., Hunegs was a key negotiator on such deals as “Friends,” “ER,” “West Wing,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Ellen.” He served as a board member of the CW network, a joint venture between Warner Bros. Entertainment, which AT&T now owns, and CBS Corp.