Disney forges new streaming video division in prep for services like ESPN+

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As part of a larger reorganization, Disney on Wednesday announced the creation of a new division for its streaming video and international operations, which will oversee two upcoming video services: ESPN+, and the company's as-yet-unnamed family-friendly offering.

The changeup is effective immediately, with strategy officer Kevin Mayer assuming a chairman role at the streaming division, Reuters said. Media networks will remain separate from Disney's movie studio.

ESPN+ could prove critical for Disney. While sports addiction keeps many people paying for cable and satellite TV packages, people less attached to sports have been able to cut bills by switching to services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now. People willing to pay a little bit more can still get a sports fix with internet-based live TV services such as Sling and PlayStation Vue.

The family-targeted service is expected to launch in late 2019, and seriously disturb the streaming landscape, not the least because Disney plans to remove first-run movies from Netflix. Marvel and "Star Wars" movies will eventually stream only through the new service, even if people may be able to pay for downloads and rentals at places like Apple's iTunes.

Apple and Disney have a close corporate relationship, in no small part because former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was once Disney's largest individual shareholder, owing to the latter's buyout of Pixar. Disney CEO Bob Iger sits on Apple's board of directors, and corporate ties have been used to insert Disney content into Apple marketing, and even custom faces on the Apple Watch.