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Disney to form new unit to distribute shows worldwide

It will unify several divisions within its TV and film operations to take advantage of international markets.

June 20, 2007|Dawn C. Chmielewski | Times Staff Writer

Walt Disney Co. is forming a new unit to distribute movies, TV shows, children's programs and other entertainment around the world.

Disney's move, to be unveiled today, is part of a larger strategy to further exploit the fast-growing international market. Chief Executive Robert Iger aims to align the company's various business units so they work more closely in that effort, making it easier for the entertainment giant to deal with traditional outlets such as cable or satellite providers as well as emerging distribution opportunities online and with mobile-phone carriers.

"What we recognized we needed to do was create a seamless distribution infrastructure that would allow us to take advantage of these emerging platforms and new technologies and enable us to provide our customers with the best Disney-branded content in the way they wanted to view it," Andy Bird, president of Walt Disney International, said.

The new global distribution group unifies under one roof several divisions within Disney-ABC Worldwide Television and Walt Disney Studios. Disney veteran Ben Pyne will oversee the effort as president of global distribution for Disney-ABC Worldwide Television & Disney Media Networks.

"This new position, this new group, marks an evolution of our global distribution efforts," said Anne Sweeney, co-chairwoman of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group. "We're combining all of these different divisions into one global unit, under one person, to create a much more streamlined, strategic group."

Sweeney said the company took a similar approach in the U.S. when it brought together ABC, ESPN and Disney Channel into an affiliate marketing group.

"We found out not only did we share best practices, we also became a much better organization for all of our cable and satellite partners to do business with," Sweeney said.

Pyne, 47, said he hoped to repeat the success of Disney's 2006 deal with satellite provider British Sky Broadcasting. That brought a wide range of Disney entertainment to subscribers, including new premium channel Disney Cinemagic, which features animated films, Disney Channel, ESPN Classic and Walt Disney Studios films in high-definition and on-demand.

As part of the realignment, Laurie Younger, president of Disney-ABC Worldwide Television, will retire when her contract expires in January.

Pyne said he hoped to use the same coordinated approach to grow Disney's business in India, China, South America and Europe. Pyne said he planned to share what works in one market -- say, the Disney Channel smash "High School Musical" -- in other places around the globe.

Pyne served most recently as president of Disney and ESPN Networks Affiliate Sales and Marketing, where he was responsible for distribution deals with U.S. cable and satellite networks. He has held various positions since joining the company in 1992. He also was orchestra manager of the New Jersey Symphony from 1985-90, and he maintains a strong interest in music and plays classical guitar.

Pyne will report to Sweeney, Alan Bergman, president of Walt Disney Studios, and Sean Bratches, executive vice president of sales and marketing for ESPN and ABC Sports.

dawn.chmielewski@latimes.com

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