This year threw a lot of curveballs at the television entertainment industry. Covid-19 forced businesses to experiment left and right as consumer adoption of streaming continued in force, and two huge streaming players debuted. Meanwhile, a wave of executive departures upended entertainment institutions and came with major business shake-ups and shifts that will continue to reverberate in the coming year.
As part of Adweek’s Year in Review coverage, we took a look back at some of the biggest moments in the streaming industry in 2020. There were so many momentous moments that the debuts of HBO Max and Peacock didn’t even make our list.
Randy Freer Exits Hulu
Freer announced in January he was stepping down, setting in motion Hulu’s continued evolution and integration into Disney’s broader streaming operations. With Freer gone, the ad sales team was moved under Disney ad sales chief Rita Ferro’s purview; ad sales chief Peter Naylor left for Snapchat shortly thereafter. Kelly Campbell was also elevated to president upon Freer’s exit, putting a marketer in the front-seat at the company as Hulu continued pushing its live TV product. The departure foretold just some of the ways Hulu would continue shifting under the Disney umbrella: Hulu is now advertised heavily as part of the Disney+ bundle of which Hulu is a part, and the service is getting new programming from Disney-owned FX and investing in reality.
Bob Iger Steps down as CEO of Disney
Iger’s February exit from the top of Disney, and Bob Chapek’s elevation to the corner office, came just months into Disney+’s early success, and shook the House of Mouse weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Chapek has since hit the gas on streaming while steering the rest of the business through the pandemic; the move is also widely considered to be an impetus for Disney streaming head Kevin Mayer’s ill-fated exit to TikTok, which paved the way for an ever-more-streamlined approach at Disney. It’s also been a fortuitous move for Iger, who has now gotten to focus more on content just as Disney has moved to pour more money into programming to keep Disney+ a must-have streaming service.
Fox Corp. Buys Tubi
Fox Corp.’s acquisition of free ad-supported streamer Tubi in March wasn’t the only AVOD acquisition that happened in 2020, but it was one of the most consequential. With Tubi, Fox, which lightened its asset load with a monster sale to Disney, was able to considerably expand its direct-to-consumer footprint, helping set the broadcaster up for a chance to win over younger audiences that are eschewing linear television. The transaction has also meant Tubi has gotten a boost, too: the streamer has been injected with Fox programming like The Masked Singer, and the streamer’s inventory was included in all of Fox Corp.’s upfront talks with advertisers.
Tokyo Summer Olympics Postponed for 2021
The postponement of the Olympics in late March dealt a blow to athletes and competitors while also marking a major upset for NBCUniversal, which had been counting on the games as a marketing vehicle for upcoming streaming service Peacock. With the absence of the games (and the ad dollars it would bring in), NBCUniversal promptly shifted marketing of its fledgling streamer to focus on its free price point, and has held some more aggressive marketing pushes for the upcoming year, when NBCUniversal will have both the beloved comedy The Office and, hopefully, the forthcoming games — now rescheduled for 2021 — to boost its streamers’ profile on a national stage.