Hulu president Joe Earley tapped to lead Disney DTC streaming business

Disney has named Hulu President Joe Earley as the new head of Disney’s direct-to-consumer streaming businesses, effective immediately.

Earley is stepping into the role of president of Direct-to-Consumer for Disney Entertainment, replacing Michael Paull, who’s exiting after spending six years at the company. Earley, previously a long-time Fox executive for over two decades, is also sticking in his current position leading Hulu, which he’s held since January 2022, until Disney names a successor.

In his new role Earley will report to Disney Entertainment co-chairmen Alan Bergman and Dana Walden, with a purview that now covers the company’s streaming businesses including Hulu and Disney+. Overseeing Disney+ won’t be completely new to Earley, who joined Disney in January 2019 to head up Disney+ marketing and operations ahead of its November launch that year. Before he was named Hulu president, Earley in 2021 added content curation for Disney+ to his roster of responsibilities, coinciding with the service’s expansion into dozens of international markets.

“Helping launch Disney+ was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and Hulu has been inspiring and rewarding,” said Earley in a statement. “I’m incredibly grateful to Dana and Alan for their confidence and the opportunity to lead both of these incredible teams during this time of transformation across the streaming landscape.”

As president of DTC for Disney, the company said Earley will work closely with content teams throughout the organization to continue to expand the streaming business and drive programming and engagement offerings across both Disney+ and Hulu.   

“Joe has proven himself to be an extraordinary asset and is uniquely positioned for this role as we guide Disney’s streaming strategy into the future,” Bergman and Walden said in the announcement. “His vast industry experience and deep understanding of what sets our prestigious portfolio of brands apart will be essential as we build on our robust direct-to-consumer efforts. Joe is a talented, passionate leader, committed to creative excellence, and we look forward to partnering with him in this next chapter.”

Disney Entertainment is a unit formed by Disney CEO Bob Iger in February, as part of a reorganization under the long-time chief executive who returned to the role last November as then-CEO Bob Chapek exited.

Speaking on his first quarterly earnings call back in the CEO spot, Iger in February affirmed that streaming remains Disney’s “number one priority” as linear content businesses face declines, though noted no plans to abandon traditional or linear platforms “while they can still be a benefit to us and our shareholders.”

Disney+ ended 2022 with 46.6 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada, along with an additional 57.7 million subscribers internationally. Hulu had 48 million subscribers as of December 31, 2022, including 4.5 million customers for its virtual MVPD Hulu + Live TV offering.  

While Disney is focused on streaming it’s also undergoing a cost cutting initiative, targeting a total of $5.5 billion in cost savings over the next few years. As part of that, in recent weeks it started the first wave of planned company-wide layoffs, ultimately cutting 7,000 jobs.