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Disney taps Connolly to head up combined distribution operation

Disney has announced the merger of its media sales and channel distribution into a single operation with Justin Connolly at the helm.

Connoly is a long-serving company man, having spent three years working for Disney in the late 90s-early 00s, before a 12 year stint at ESPN, most recently as senior vice president of programming. He has the new title of president of media distribution and will be based in New York reporting to Disney direct-to-consumer and international (DTCI) chairman Kevin Mayer. 

Connolly will continue to oversee Disney’s North American distribution, affiliate marketing and affiliate-related business operations for all Disney and ESPN services. He will also have final approval on content sales agreements for brands including Disney, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm and National Geographic. In addition, Connolly will lead global app distribution for the company’s DTC streaming services such as Disney+ and ESPN+. Finally, Connolly will be responsible for film and TV distribution via home entertainment, broadcast, digital, SVOD and pay TV. 

Connolly said: “I am excited to have the opportunity to lead the industry’s best multi-platform sales and distribution teams. Through our combined efforts we will achieve the company’s vision for an even stronger, more agile organisation that is better able to pivot and capitalise on the many opportunities present in today’s fast-changing and increasingly complex global marketplace.”

Mayer added: “By combining all of our media, affiliate, content and syndication sales, and distribution efforts into the Direct-to-Consumer & International segment, we continue to transform the ways in which we distribute the great stories and characters created by The Walt Disney Company’s studios and media networks.

“I’ve had the great pleasure of working with Justin for many years and believe his experience makes him well-suited to drive Disney’s media sales and distribution efforts. He is a consummate professional, a fantastic dealmaker, and a great leader.”

The move is the latest in Disney’s ongoing integration of 21st Century Fox assets following the US$71.3 billion (€63.23 billion) acquisition. The company had previously announced plans for layoffs in several areas of the business, and that it estimates US$2 billion (€1.77 billion) in synergies.