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Report: Disney Shuffles Execs, WDIG International Head Retiring

Following the merging of its Walt Disney Internet Group (WDIG) and Disney Interactive Studios (DIS) divisions to form Disney Interactive Media Group (DIMG), the Walt Disney Company
The Walt Disney Company has administered several executive changes and revealed that WDIG International head Mark Handler will be retiring after working with Disney for 24 years, according to an internal memo sent by DIMG president Steve Wadsworth and posted by digital content business site PaidContent. This news follows the merging of two of Disney divisions, the Walt Disney Internet Group (WDIG), the digital media unit behind Disney.com and Club Penguin, and Disney Interactive Studios (DIS), the video gaming unit behind Nintendo DS online world DGamer, to form Disney Interactive Media Group (DIMG). Disney hoped that the consolidation of the two groups would develop "a unified Disney-branded experience and community across all connected devices." The new unit has been given global responsibility for developing and distributing "all Disney-branded interactive digital media and entertainment for all digital interactive platforms.” With the integration and its exec changes, Disney announced that current WDIG International head Mark Handler will retire after 24 years with the company and 8 years with the WDIG organization. Handler was instrumental in the development of Disney’s international digital business, helping expand its online presence in 24 international territories and mobile business in 70. Wadsworth revealed in the memo that the new unit will operate under two global lines of business in order to provide greater coordination on global content and global business execution: Disney Interactive Studios (DIS) and Disney Online (DOL). Disney Interactive Studios will focus on developing and publishing video games on home consoles, PCs, handhelds, and mobile devices. The group will also be tasked with developing a cross-platform casual game studio capability. Current Disney Interactive Studios EVP and GM Graham Hopper will continue to run DIS on a global basis with expanded responsibilities. Disney Online’s priorities will be on the company’s global web properties, such as Disney.com and Family.com, on all media platforms. The business line will also focus on the development and operation of virtual worlds, including Club Penguin, as well as Disney’s broader community/connectivity capabilities. Current Disney Online EVP and GM Paul Yanover will run Disney Online on a global basis. Lane Merrifield, the co-founder and current EVP and GM of Club Penguin, will lead all virtual worlds development and operations as part of Disney Online. Disney mobile content EVP Larry Shapiro will be responsible for global strategy, business development, Corp Communications, and legal for Disney Interactive Media Group, working directly with the lines of business and regions. Said Wadsworth: “As you will see, we are organizing around the global development of interactive media products and content with the ability to focus on local distribution and local content requirements.” He continued: “In addition, we will be poised to take advantage of continued convergence between the game console platforms and the online/mobile platforms as technologies and consumer behaviour rapidly evolve. We are positioning ourselves to maximize the upcoming opportunities and putting the organization on the path to accelerate significant long term growth.”

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