Peter Rice Named Chairman of Walt Disney Television

Pending approval of 21st Century Fox merger

If the merger is approved, Rice will report directly to Robert A. Iger, chairman and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company. Getty Images
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Peter Rice will become chairman of Walt Disney Television and co-chair of Disney Media Networks after 21st Century Fox successfully merges with The Walt Disney Company.

Shareholders approved the $71.3 billion merger in July, but the deal still needs to go through a regulatory review in other countries.

If approved, Rice, who is currently president of 21st Century Fox and chairman and chief executive officer of Fox Networks Group, will report directly to Robert A. Iger, chairman and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company.

Rice would oversee the ABC Television Network, ABC Studios, the ABC-owned Television Stations Group, Disney Channels, Freeform, Twentieth Century Fox Television, FX Networks and FX Productions, Fox 21 Television Studios, and the National Geographic channels.

“I love making television and have been fortunate to work with incredibly talented executives and storytellers,” Rice said in a statement. “Disney is the world’s preeminent creative company, and I look forward to working for Bob, and with his exceptional leadership team, to build on that amazing legacy.”

Several other 21st Century Fox executives were also named to Disney jobs.

Fox Television Group CEO and chairman Dana Walden was named chairman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment.

“Not since my kids were little have I been asked so many times about going to Disney,” Walden said at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in August in response to rumors that she was negotiating for a role at Disney.

FX Networks and FX Productions CEO John Landgraf was named chairman of FX Networks and FX Productions. If the Disney deal goes through, Landgraf is setting his aspirations sky high.

“If we’re given the resources, I want to be the best brand in television,” he said previously, envisioning a scenario in which FX encompasses the ad-supported linear network in 90 million homes, a Disney-controlled streaming platform and the FX+ subscription add-on.

Also reporting to Rice will be Gary E. Knell, chairman of National Geographic Partners, Gary Marsh, president and chief creative officer of Disney Channels Worldwide, and James Goldston, named president of ABC News.

Meanwhile, Ben Sherwood, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group, will stay on in his current role during the transition.

A month ago, Disney locked in its own post-merger ad sales strategy when the company promoted Rita Ferro to president of Disney advertising sales. In that role, she’ll oversee all Disney media properties, including ABC, Freeform, the Disney channels, ESPN and, presumably, Fox assets like National Geographic and FX.

Executive announcements were also made today for the New Fox, which is expected to include Fox Broadcasting, Fox News, Fox Sports and Fox Business Network.

Hope Hicks, former White House communications director and director of strategic communications, was named evp and chief communications officer for Fox, and Danny O’Brien, currently senior government affairs at General Electric, was named Fox evp and head of government relations.

“The strength of 21st Century Fox’s first-class management talent has always been a compelling part of this opportunity for us,” Iger said in a statement. “Upon completion of the acquisition, this new structure positions these proven leaders to help drive maximum value from a greatly enhanced portfolio of incredible brands and businesses.”

@SaraJerde Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.