Walt Disney Television
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Walt Disney Television

Walt Disney Television
IndustryBroadcast and cable television
Mass media
PredecessorAmerican Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres
FoundedMarch 18, 1985; 34 years ago (1985-03-18)
Area served
Key people
  • Peter Rice (Chairman)
  • Dana Walden (Chairman, Disney TV Studios and ABC Entertainment)
  • Craig Hunegs (President, Disney Television Studios)
Number of employees
7,000+ (2016)
ParentDisney Media Networks
DivisionsABC News
ABC Owned Television Stations
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata
Footnotes / references

Walt Disney Television is a subsidiary of Disney Media Networks that oversees television assets owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company. It was formerly called Disney-ABC Television Group, until Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox on March 20, 2019. Assets in the group include the ABC network; cable networks: Freeform, Disney Channels, FX and National Geographic channels; Disney Television Studios: ABC Studios, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox 21 Television Studios; ABC News; and ABC Owned Television Stations. The division also manages Disney's 50% equity stake in A&E Networks. Along with ESPN, Walt Disney Television are the two primary subsidiaries of Disney Media Networks.[1]


The ABC Television Group logo before merging with The Walt Disney Company.

In 1996, Disney acquired Capital Cities/ABC Inc., and re-branded the holding media conglomerate as Disney-ABC Television Group.[4] The assets acquired at the time included ABC Television Network Group, CC/ABC Broadcasting Group (ABC Radio Network, eight TV and 21 radio stations), ABC Cable and International Broadcast Group, CC/ABC Publishing Group and CC/ABC Multimedia Group to the fold. The Cable and International Broadcast Group contained ownership shares of ESPN, Inc. (80%), A&E Television Networks (37.5%), Lifetime Television (50%) and its international investments. These investments included Tele-München (50%, Germany; included 20% of RTL II), Hamster Productions. (33%, France) and Scandinavian Broadcasting System (23%, Luxembourg). ESPN also had international holdings: Eurosport (33.3%, England), TV Sport (10%, France; Eurosport affiliate) and The Japan Sports Channel (20%). The Publishing Group including Fairchild Publications, Chilton Publications, multiple newspapers from a dozen dailies (including the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, The Kansas City Star) and more weeklies, and dozens more publications in the fields of farm, business and law trade journals plus LA Magazine to Institutional Investor. The Multimedia Group pursued businesses in new and emerging media technologies, including the interactive television, pay-per-view, VOD, HDTV, video cassette, Optical disc, on-line services and location-based entertainment.[5]

In 1993, DiC Animation City and Capital Cities/ABC formed a joint venture called DIC Entertainment L.P.[6] In April 1996, due to ongoing post Disney-CC/ABC merger realignment and retirement of its president, WDTT group's division were reassigned to other groups with Walt Disney Television International (including Disney Channels International and Buena Vista Television domestic syndication and Pay TV division and GMTV and Super RTL holdings) were transferred to Capital Cities/ABC.[7] In May due to the merger, ABC ended its ABC Productions division operations while keeping its boutique production companies: Victor Television, DIC Productions, ABC/Kane Productions and Greengrass Productions.[8] The international operations of Disney TV International and ABC Cable and International Broadcast Group were merged in June as Disney/ABC International Television.[9]

Under Disney, ABC Group sold various publishing companies in 1997. Chilton was sold to Reed Elsevier for $447 million and received $142 million from Euromoney Publications for Institutional Investor. In April, Knight Ridder purchased four newspapers including The Kansas City Star and The Fort Worth Star-Telegram for $1.65 billion. In August 1999, Fairchild Publications was sold to Conde Nast Publications for $650 million.[10] In March 1998, Disney-ABC placed it shares of Scandinavian Broadcasting System up for sale.[11]

In late 1999, Walt Disney Television, along with other television units, were transferred again from The Walt Disney Studios to Disney-ABC Television Group and merged with ABC's primetime division, ABC Entertainment, forming ABC Entertainment Group.[12][13][14]

In March 2000, ABC formed the Disney Kids Network (DKN) advertising group via consolidation to sell ads for ABC's "TGIF" primetime programming, Disney's One Saturday Morning, the Disney's One Too syndicated programming block, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, The Wonderful World of Disney and Winnie the Pooh primetime specials. DKN was placed under senior vice president of sales at ABC, Dan Barnathan, and would also work on some ads with Radio Disney, Disney.com and the Disney Adventures magazine. DKN added Toon Disney when the channel started accepting ads in September 2000.[15][16]

ABC Group chairman Robert A. Iger was named president and chief operating officer of The Walt Disney Company in January 2000.[17] In 2000, with an investment by Bain Capital and Chase Capital Partners, Heyward re-purchased DIC Enterprises.[18]

In September 2002, Disney Chairman/CEO Michael Eisner outlined a proposed realignment of the ABC broadcast network's daytime parts with the similar unit in its cable channels: ABC Saturday mornings with Disney Channel units (Toon & Playhouse), ABC daytime with Soapnet and ABC prime time with ABC Family.[19] In October 2003, ABC Family Worldwide was changed from a unit directly reporting to the Disney COO to a unit running within the ABC Cable Networks Group under Anne Sweeney.[20]

Disney-ABC Television Group

Former logo of Disney-ABC Television Group, used from 2013 to 2019.

On April 21, 2004, Disney announced a restructuring of its Disney Media Networks division with Sweeney being named president of ABC parent Disney-ABC, and ESPN president George Bodenheimer becoming co-CEO of the division with Sweeney, as well as president of ABC Sports. This move added ABC TV Network within Disney-ABC.[21]ABC1 channel initially launched in the United Kingdom on September 27, 2004 as the first use of the ABC brand outside the US.[22] While ABC News Now was launched that year in the US on digital subchannel of 70 ABC owned & operated and affiliates.[23]

On June 12, 2007, Disney spun off its ABC Radio Networks and merged it into Citadel Communications with Citadel Broadcasting while retaining its ESPN Radio and Radio Disney networks and stations and a 10-year news provider licensing agreement with Citadel for ABC News Radio and the networks.[24][25]

In February 2007, Touchstone Television was renamed ABC Television Studio as part of Disney's push to drop secondary brands like Buena Vista for Disney, ABC, ESPN, and most recently, A&E Networks.[26] ABC1 in the UK was shut down on September 26, 2007.[27]

On January 22, 2009, Disney-ABC said it would merge ABC Entertainment and ABC Studios into a new unit called ABC Entertainment Group.[28][29] That April, ABC Enterprises took an ownership stake in Hulu in exchange for online distribution license and $25 million in the ABC network ad credits.[30] The Live Well Network (LWN) was launched on April 27, 2009 by ABC Owned Television Stations on the stations' subchannels.[31][32][33] Later that year, A+E Networks acquired Lifetime Entertainment Services with DATG ownership increasing to 42%.[34] In November, Disney-ABC sells GMTV to ITV for $37 million.[35]

On March 24, 2012, following the dissolution of the ABC Daytime division, ABC Family Worldwide Inc. began taking operational control of Soapnet until that network was slowly discontinued for Disney Junior.[36][37]

In July 2012, NBCUniversal confirmed plans to sell its 15.8% stake in A+E Networks to Disney for $3 billion (along with its previous owner Hearst Entertainment & Syndication, who became 50-50 partners in the joint venture).[38][39]

On August 21, 2013, Disney-ABC announced it will lay off 175 employees. The layoffs are expected to hit positions among technical operations as well as the unit's eight local stations.[40] On October 28, ABC News and Univision Communications launched Fusion, a cable Hispanic news and satire channel.[41]

In August 2014, A+E took a 10% stake in Vice Media for $250 million, then announced in April 2015 that H2 would be rebranded into the Vice channel with an indicated early 2016 launch.[42] Disney also directly made two $200 investments in Vice Media in November 2015, then a week later in December, they directly invested in it again for 10% to assist in funding its programming.[43] ABC Family became Freeform on January 12, 2016.[44]

On April 21, 2016, Disney-ABC sold its share in Fusion to Univision.[45] In September 2016, the group's president Ben Sherwood named Bruce Rosenblum, Television Academy chairman and former head of Warner Bros. TV Group, as president of business operations in s the newly created position, to reduce the number of direct reports from 17 to about 8. Roseblum would oversee ad sales in conjunction with channel heads, affiliate sales and marketing, engineering, digital media, global distribution, IT, research and strategy and business development. This allows Sherwood to focus on content and direct operating units that continue to directly report to him, ABC network units, cable channel units (Disney Channels Worldwide, and Freeform), ABC Studios and ABC TV Stations.[46]

With the March 14, 2018, Disney Company reorganization, in anticipation of integrating Fox assets from a proposed acquisition, all international channels including Disney Channels have been transferred to Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International, a new segment, with US channels remaining with Disney-ABC Television Group. All global sales units and distribution units have been transfer to the Disney Direct-to-Consumer segment.[47]

Walt Disney Television

On October 8, 2018, Disney announced the division would be renamed Walt Disney Television following the completion of its acquisition of 21st Century Fox. The acquisition added 20th Century Fox Television, FX Networks and FX Productions, Fox 21 Television Studios, and National Geographic Networks to the division. Fox television executives Peter Rice, Dana Walden, John Landgraf, and Gary Knell joined The Walt Disney Company on March 20, 2019.[48]

On March 5, 2019, Craig Hunegs was named to lead the combined Disney Television Studios -- ABC Studios, ABC Signature, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox 21 Television Studios. He would report to Walden.[2]

Following the completed acquisition of the 21st Century Fox assets in March 2019, Disney reorganized its television division to align various operations. On June 10, 2019, Disney announced that both Disney Television Studios and FX Entertainment would share the same casting division.[49] After assuming full control over Hulu in May 2019, Disney reorganized Hulu's reporting structure in July 2019, placing Hulu's Scripted Originals team under Walt Disney Television. Under the new structure, Hulu's SVP of Original Scripted Content would report directly to the chairman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment.[50]


Current Structure

This is the current structure of the Walt Disney Television units based on reporting hierarchy:[48]

Former Units

Re-organizational transfers 2018
These assets has been transferred to Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International in 2018, which include:[47]

  • Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment - also known as Disney-ABC Home Entertainment and Television Distribution
  • Disney Media Distribution - formerly Disney-ABC International Television and before that, ABC Cable and International Broadcast Group
  • Disney Channels Worldwide - international channels only
    • Broadcast Satellite Disney Co., Ltd. (April 2009 - 2018) - operator of Dlife channel (Japan)[51]
    • Hungama (2006-2018)
  • Hulu (60%; 2009-2018)
  • Buena Vista International Television Investments
    • RTL Disney Television Limited Partnership, 50%[52] (-2018)
    • Tele Munich Television Media Participation Limited Partnership, 50%[52]
      • RTL 2 Television Limited Partnership, 31.5% (-2018)
  • GMTV (1993-2009) UK, 25%
  • Super RTL (1995) Germany
    • Kividoo subscription video-on-demand (2015)
    • Toggo Plus (2016)


  • ABC Radio Networks (1945-2007) sold to Cumulus Media
    • American Contemporary Network (January 1, 1968)
    • American Information Network (January 1, 1968)
    • American Entertainment Network (January 1, 1968)
    • American FM Network (January 1, 1968)
    • ABC Rock Radio Network (January 4, 1982)
    • ABC Direction Radio Network (January 4, 1982)
    • ABC Talk Radio (1980s)
    • Urban Advantage Network (UAN)
  • Radio Disney Group (2003-2014) sold individual stations except one.
  • Walt Disney Television (1999-2003)
  • Disney MovieToons/Disney Video Premieres (1996-2003) came as a part of Disney TV Animation transfer out to Walt Disney Feature Animation.
  • Jetix - merged into Disney Channels Worldwide.
  • ABC News Now (2004-2009) digital subchannel network.

Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications

Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications (WDTT) was a division of The Walt Disney Company. At the time Disney and Capital Cities/ABC merged, WDTT's divisions were The Disney Channel, KCAL-TV Los Angeles, Walt Disney Television, Touchstone Television, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, and Disney Interactive.[5]

WDTT history

On August 24, 1994, with Jeffrey Katzenberg's resignation, a reorganization of Disney took place in which Richard H. Frank became head of newly formed Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications, which was split from its filmed entertainment business, Walt Disney Studios.[54] On December 5, 1994, Walt Disney Computer Software was transferred within WDTT as Disney Interactive.[55] At the end of his contract on April 30, 1995, Frank left Disney.[56]Dennis Hightower, a marketing executive, was appointed by April 9 to succeed Frank.[57]

In April 1996, due to ongoing post-Disney-CC/ABC merger realignment and the retirement of Hightower as president, WDTT's divisions were reassigned to other groups, with most of them transferred to either The Walt Disney Studios or CC/ABC.[7] KCAL was sold to Young Broadcasting in May 1996 due to CC/ABC ownership of KABC-TV.[53]

See also


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  2. ^ a b c d Low, Elaine (March 5, 2019). "Disney Taps Warner Bros. Vet Craig Hunegs to Lead Merged TV Studios Unit". Variety. Retrieved 2019.
  3. ^ Guthrie, Marisa (September 14, 2016). "Disney/ABC TV's Ben Sherwood on a 'Star Wars' Series, "Mistakes" in Michael Strahan's 'Live' Exit and Bob Iger's Future". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2016.
  4. ^ Fabrikant, Geraldine (January 5, 1996). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS;Disney and ABC Shareholders Solidly Approve Merger Deal". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019.
  5. ^ a b c "Fact Sheet: The Walt Disney Company". Press Release. The Walt Disney Company. Retrieved 2013.
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  8. ^ Littleton, Cynthia. (May 27, 1996) ABC folds in-house arm. (TV series production unit). Broadcasting & Cable. Access on November 13, 2013.
  9. ^ Johnson, Debra (July 1, 1996). "Granath takes top slot at Disney/ABC International". Broadcasting & Cable. Archived from the original on June 6, 2014. Retrieved 2014.
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  34. ^ A&E Acquires Lifetime. Variety.com. August 27, 2009.
  35. ^ "Disney sells stake in U.K.'s GMTV". Variety. November 26, 2009. Retrieved 2015.
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  56. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (March 7, 1995). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS; Top Disney TV Official May Leave". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016.
  57. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (April 9, 1995). "Clouds Over Disneyland". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019.

External links

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