BURBANK, Calif. -- Walt Disney Co. promoted Disney Channel executive Mark Handler to head a new unit that will develop movies-on-demand and other interactive entertainment services.
Disney TeleVentures will be part of Disney's partnership with three regional Bell companies -- Ameritech Inc., BellSouth Corp. and SBC Communications Inc. -- to provide interactive services to the Baby Bells' 50 million customers in 19 states.
Mr. Handler's appointment as president of the unit is "a major strategic step toward strengthening the company's long-term role" in the telecommunications partnership, said Walt Disney Television & Telecommunications President Dennis F. Hightower.
Mr. Handler, most recently senior vice president of sales and marketing for the 14 million-subscriber Disney Channel, joined the channel in 1984 after six years with Cox Cable.
Burbank, Calif.-based Walt Disney said John Cooke, executive vice president of corporate affairs, will remain its chief representative in the partnership.
Disney and its three partners said April 18 that they would invest $500 million in their as-yet-unnamed telecommunications partnership.
Disney will lead development of a "navigator" to guide customers through a menu of services.
At an April news conference, BellSouth Senior Vice President William Redderson said the companies plan to go head-to-head with cable system operators later this year with their own cable programming lineup.
The venture will compete with another Baby Bell venture backed by Pacific Telesis Group, Nynex Corp., Bell Atlantic Corp. and Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency.