Disney's Mysterious Kareem Daniel
Chapek's lieutenant is Disney+'s top decision maker. Amid power struggles, insiders are rattled — if they even know who he is
In a ranking of the 10 most powerful people in Hollywood today, perhaps the most unexpected name on the list would be that of Kareem Daniel. The 48-year-old chairman of Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution has been given arguably the greatest power vested in one executive in Hollywood — the final say on how viewers experience Disney movies and TV shows, whether that’s in theaters, on Disney+, Hulu, Disney networks, or some combination of the above. The decisions to release Turning Red exclusively on Disney+ (to the dismay of some families and kids who were eager to see it on the big screen), and the upcoming Bob’s Burgers Movie in theaters? Those are calls that ultimately rest with Daniel.
The power that Daniel wields is nothing short of monumental, when you consider
the power of Disney content — stemming from Pixar, Marvel, 20th Century Studios and Lucasfilm, home of the Star Wars franchise — or that the company is spending a whopping $33 billion on that content this year. Meanwhile, Disney+ is steadily gaining momentum and may be the single biggest reason why Netflix is fumbling as furiously as it is, losing 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter, with an expected 2 million more to come in Q2. (For its part, Disney reported adding almost 8 million new Disney+ subscribers, though much of the sub growth came from India’s far cheaper Disney+ Hotstar.)
Beyond distribution, Daniel, who was promoted to his post by his longtime mentor, CEO Bob Chapek, in October of 2020, has also been given oversight of the P&L budgets for Disney’s film and TV divisions — a major shift in protocol that has ruffled feathers internally.
“He quietly oversees just about everything,” notes one source.
And yet, ask around town about Disney’s distribution czar and the most common response is: “Who?”