The Walt Disney Company says Joe Earley has been tapped to serve as the new president of direct-to-consumer streaming initiatives at Disney Entertainment.
Earley previously worked as the president of Hulu, the general entertainment streaming service majority-owned by Disney, which is bundled with Disney’s flagship streaming service Disney Plus and sports-centric streamer ESPN Plus.
As the president of streaming at Disney Entertainment, Earley will oversee all three streaming products. He will report to Alan Bergman and Dana Walden, the co-chairmen of Disney Entertainment, the company said in a press release.
“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 affirmed on Wednesday. “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.”
Earley assumed his new role on Wednesday. The company says he will continue to operate as Hulu’s president until a successor is found and named.
He joined Disney nearly four years ago to help the company launch and grow Disney Plus. He gained the additional task of curating content for the streaming service in 2021. One year later, he was named president at Hulu.
“Helping launch Disney Plus was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and Hulu has been inspiring and rewarding,” Earley said 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 part of the transition, Disney says Michael Paull will be leaving the company after six years. He became a Disney executive after the company acquire the video streaming company BAMTech from Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Hockey League (NHL). (Disney, MLB and NHL launched BAMTech as a joint venture.)
Disney currently controls two-thirds of Hulu, with Comcast owning a minority stake. Disney has until next year to decide whether to buy out Comcast’s one-third stake, and for how much.
Bob Iger, the Disney executive who returned to the CEO role last November, has signaled his willingness to buy Comcast’s stake in Hulu, though he’s not committed to that strategy.
In March, Iger called the direct-to-consumer streaming environment “very tricky,” and said Disney would have to weigh its options and long-term business strategies “before we make any big decisions about our level of investment, about our commitment to [Hulu].”
“We want to understand where it could go,” Iger said.
Appointing Hulu’s top executive to oversee all streaming initiatives at Disney suggests the company sees more value in Hulu than reporters and analysts were led to believe last month — and could also signal Disney’s long-term commitment to the service.