In the spring of 2002, Kareem Daniel needed to use crutches because of an injury. He sustained the injury while playing basketball on his right ankle. However, Mr. Daniel did not have time to recuperate because he had set a self-imposed deadline for changing careers. He wanted to leave the stable and secure field of electrical engineering, which was a path that his parents had encouraged him to pursue, and go into the wild and woolly film business, and that was his dream.
So he staggered to his vehicle and glanced at a sign that said “Los Angeles, 404 miles” as he drove down the motorway.
Mr. Daniel went all around Hollywood doing interviews, but he was unsuccessful. Just as he was ready to quit up, he found out that Disney had an internship opportunity available in their DVD department. The interview was intended to take place over the phone, but Mr. Daniel insisted that it take place in person instead. “I wanted in the room,” he stated at one point. The low-level Disney executive Bob Chapek who was conducting the interview very immediately offered him a job with the company.
Over the course of the next 20 years, as Mr. Chapek rose to become the chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, the tireless Mr. Daniel climbed with him — first to a rung involving movie distribution strategy, then to business development for consumer products and interactive media, and finally to Imagineering, Disney’s theme park design division, and back to consumer products. In the year 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic was at its peak, Mr. Chapek appointed Mr. Daniel chairman of a new division called Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution. This division was established to give priority to the company’s streaming services (Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+) and to ensure that they receive a consistent flow of Disney’s best content.
In a nutshell, Mr. Chapek charged Mr. Daniel with expanding the number of streaming customers, a mission of the utmost significance that has been subjected to heightened scrutiny on Wall Street in recent months, ever since Netflix began to lose members, which shook the entertainment industry.
A very unknown man named Daniel, who is now 48 years old, is one of the entertainment industry’s most prominent executives thanks to the enormous position he has. It is up to him to decide how Disney’s $33 billion worth of film and television material is distributed each year: to streaming services, conventional television channels, or movie theatres. In this capacity, he serves in some respects as Disney’s chief content traffic officer. Should the next Pixar film be shown in cinemas just when it first premieres? Or should it be made immediately accessible “for free” to users of Disney+? Pixar will be approached for their opinion, but ultimately the decision will be made by Mr. Daniel and his staff.
Mr. Daniel said that in the end, “we will make the best judgments that we believe are appropriate for the customer.”
Additionally, Mr. Chapek delegated to Mr. Daniel global operational and profit-and-loss responsibility for Disney’s streaming services, in addition to responsibility for traditional channels such as ABC and ESPN. This is territory that formerly belonged to Disney’s film and television content divisions. He controls all advertising sales. Mr. Daniel is the first Black CEO in Disney’s 99-year history to oversee a major division. In addition, he has partial authority of Disney’s plan to construct its own version of the metaverse, which is a fusion of the online, virtual, and real worlds.
It would be enough to push even the most experienced chief executive officer to the breaking point. Despite his self-proclaimed status as a workaholic and his reputation for being a demanding manager, Mr. Daniel gave the impression that he was unfazed during an interview in May at the corporate offices of Disney in Burbank, California.