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Disney’s Digital General

For several months, Walt Disney Co. executives have been deep in discussions with Major League Baseball over a proposed billion-dollar investment in the league’s video streaming division. And the man leading the talks for the media giant hasn’t been an executive at the company’s ESPN sports network but one of CEO Bob Iger’s top lieutenants, Kevin Mayer.

It’s the latest in a string of digital deals that Mr. Mayer has led for Disney. He was the first person to connect with YouTube network Maker Studios in 2012, two years before Disney decided to acquire the firm outright. He was the chief proponent of Disney’s purchase of a stake in Hulu in 2009. And he led Disney’s negotiations to invest in millennial-oriented video programming firm Vice Media and sits on that company’s board.

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But with Disney’s future less certain than it’s been in years, the more immediate question is whether Mr. Mayer’s deals can cement Mr. Iger’s legacy and help transform the business into one that leads in a new era of digital distribution, rather than be consumed by it.

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Alex Kruglov, Jessica E. Lessin and 1 other commented on this article.
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One of Mr. Mayer’s strengths is that he both gets deals done and maintains good relationships with companies afterward. That’s critical when Disney buys a minority stake and wants to take full control later—which could be the case with both BAM and Vice.