Disney creates streaming video unit for digital future

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co DIS.N said on Wednesday it had created a new unit for its streaming video and international businesses as the company retools its traditional media operation for a world rapidly embracing online video.

A screen shows the logo and a ticker symbol for The Walt Disney Company on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Kevin Mayer, the company’s chief strategy officer, was named chairman of the new division, which will oversee the upcoming ESPN+ digital offering and the launch of a family-oriented streaming service in late 2019, Disney said in a statement.

The move, effective immediately, comes as Disney is in the process of purchasing film, TV and international businesses from Twenty-First Century Fox Inc FOXA.O.

Regulators are reviewing the deal, which has been complicated by Comcast Corp's CMCSA.O offer for one of the assets, Britain's Sky Plc SKYB.L.

Disney also combined its theme parks business with the consumer products unit that licenses characters for toys, apparel and other merchandise. Bob Chapek, who heads the parks division, will lead the combined unit.

Media networks and the movie studio will remain separate units, Disney said.

“We are strategically positioning our businesses for the future, creating a more effective, global framework to serve consumers worldwide, increase growth, and maximize shareholder value,” Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said in a statement.

Disney's largest TV network, ESPN, has been losing subscribers as customers drop pay television subscriptions in favor of streaming services such as Netflix Inc NFLX.O.

The company is responding with its own digital push. It is pulling its first-run movies from Netflix in 2019 to offer them on the Disney-branded service.

If the Fox deal wins approval, Disney also will expand its programming portfolio and international reach, plus own a majority stake in the Hulu streaming service.

Disney expects to switch its financial reporting to reflect the new structure by the beginning of fiscal 2019, the company said.

Shares of Disney rose 0.5 percent to $104.33 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Bernadette Baum