Disney ousts TV content exec Peter Rice

Disney as of Thursday has fired television content executive Peter Rice — a move that was apparently unexpected for the media industry. The New York Times initially broke the news, with Disney confirming Rice would immediately exit the company and be replaced by fellow entertainment executive Dana Walden.

Rice’s official title was chairman of Disney General Entertainment Content, a division that produces content for channels like ABC, the Disney Channel and FX. He most recently renewed his contract with Disney in August 2021 — a deal that was set to run until the end of 2024.

People familiar with the matter told NYT Disney will pay Rice out for the remainder of his contract.

Disney didn’t specify the exact reason for terminating Rice’s employment. According to CNBC, CEO Bob Chapek had informed Rice on Wednesday he wasn’t a cultural fit at Disney and that Rice didn’t work collaboratively with other employees.

Among his other duties, Rice also oversaw ABC News. Sources told Variety the staff at ABC News craved more direction from Rice, and that many of them hadn’t developed a closer rapport with him.

Both Rice and Walden are veterans of 21st Century Fox, which Disney had acquired in March 2019.

“Dana is a dynamic, collaborative leader and cultural force who in just three years has transformed our television business into a content powerhouse,” Chapek said, according to media reports. “She and Peter have worked closely together for years to create the best programming in the industry.”

Disney as of late has made significant structural changes to its executive leadership. The company last week scored Apple’s Mark Bozon, who will serve as a VP for Disney’s metaverse strategy. While Jeremy Doig came on in March as Disney Streaming’s new chief technology officer.

Rice isn’t the only executive who has exited Disney this year. Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Geoff Morrell resigned in April, after only a three-month tenure at the company. CNBC reported that Morrell wrote a letter to his team saying his role, “for a number of reasons it is not the right fit.”

CNBC also said Rice had interviewed last year with David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery. Rice was seeking a content executive role, but Zaslav decided he didn’t want the “extra” management layer.