James Pitaro, an experienced Internet executive who just left his post at running the media properties at Yahoo Inc, will oversee Disney Online, the home of Disney branded web and social media sites.
As co-president of Disney Interactive Media Group, John Pleasants, the CEO of Playdom, the online game company recently bought by Disney for $763 million, will focus on online gaming and will continue to run Playdom.
In an interview, Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger said he believed the structural change at the top of the division was needed to “create a real business in this space.”
The two executives replace Steve Wadsworth, a 17-year veteran, who will step down and had in recent years brought together most of Disney’s Internet properties within Disney Interactive Media Group, which narrowed its loss slightly to $65 million in the most recently reported quarter.
“As co-presidents, I’m confident they will make Disney’s digital content and businesses even more robust and successful,” Iger said.
Pleasants will oversee Disney’s overall games strategy and its global network of game development studios, including recently acquired mobile publisher Tapulous. The games group will include such popular online virtual worlds as Club Penguin, purchased by Disney in 2007 for about $350 million, and World of Cars as well as console and mobile titles.
Prior to joining Playdom as CEO in June 2009, he was President of Global Publishing and Chief Operating Officer of Electronic Arts Inc.
Some analysts have cited concerns about the prices Disney has paid for these properties.
“The street is a little skeptical because Disney paid hefty multiples for Playdom and for Club Penguin and there’s not a lot of transparency. It’s a little hard to evaluate how well they’re doing but the street tends to give Disney the benefit of the doubt because they have the strongest track record in executing content creation and cross platform exploitation,” said David Bank, analyst with RBC.
During the interview, Iger said that the Club Penguin acquisition had exceeded the company’s acquisition targets and that its subscribers had risen to 1.7 million from 750,000 when it was acquired.
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