Walt Disney Co. is shuffling its executive ranks as it prepares to launch its streaming video service, a key initiative by the company to remain a dominant entertainment player in the digital age.
The Burbank-based studio on Thursday put its film marketing president, Ricky Strauss, in charge of content and marketing for Disney’s streaming initiative, which is expected to launch next year in a bid to compete with the growing field of online players.
Strauss, 51, will oversee the making of original film and TV programming for the new online service that is expected to include movies, series and short videos from Disney brands including Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. He will also be tasked with marketing the much-anticipated streaming service to the public.
The streaming effort comes as tech giants including Netflix, Amazon and Apple spend billions of dollars to create their own shows that generate buzz.
Strauss will report to Kevin Mayer, who in March was named the head of Disney’s new direct-to-consumer unit, which also includes the ESPN-Plus streaming service that launched this year and the company’s stake in Hulu.
Disney will own a controling 60% stake in Hulu if Disney’s $71.3-billion purchase of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets goes through.
Disney on Wednesday won Justice Department approval for its proposed purchase of much of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, including the “X-Men” and “Avatar” film franchises and cable networks such as FX. As part of an agreement with the government to let the deal through, Disney said it would unload Fox’s 22 regional sports networks.
Strauss’ former role as studio marketing president will be filled by Disney veteran Asad Ayaz, 40, who previously served as head of theatrical marketing. Strauss joined Disney in 2012, after serving seven years overseeing marketing and production at film company Participant Media.
Additionally, Disney’s theatrical distribution head Cathleen Taff, who replaced Dave Hollis this year, was promoted to president from her previous title of executive vice president, the company said.