The former electrical engineer to head Disney’s streaming strategy
Ms. Dakhil, however, decided to investigate on her own. “I made a concerted effort to get to know Kareem and was pleasantly surprised,” she said. “He is brimming with high levels of EQ” – emotional intelligence – “and yet he doesn’t pretend to know everything. He is curious and attentive. And above all, I am convinced that he really loves movies.
Films have been a passion for Mr. Daniel since childhood. He grew up on the South Side of Chicago, where his mother was a nurse and his father a teacher. He spent most of his Saturdays at the Evergreen Plaza multiplex, once taking consecutive projections from “The Empire Strikes Back”. When it came to choosing a career, however, his parents insisted on practicality – hence his conscientious decision to study electrical engineering at Stanford University.
At Disney, he’s known for peppering conversations with movie lines, sometimes playfully testing subordinates to guess their origin. He collects original movie posters. Over dinner with a reporter, he discussed the plot intricacies of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread,” about a fashion designer in 1950s London, and recited lines from “The Breakfast Club.” and “The Color of Money”.
He has participated 21 times in the Sundance Film Festival. “He sees more movies at Sundance than almost anyone, and he does it because he loves it,” said Sean Bailey, president of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production.
Much has been made, both inside and outside of Disney, about how Mr. Chapek’s 2020 restructuring took power away from some (the people who run the film and television production divisions of company) and gave it to others (Mr. Daniel). Not helping was the industry-wide confusion about how it all works.
As part of the new setup, Mr. Daniel’s group is building a spending budget for Disney’s content factories. Using data and research, its teams also determine the type of content needed (genre, duration, targeted demographics) to drive growth across the company’s various platforms. “We share that with them so they can go and create against those needs,” Mr. Daniel said. “We’re not going towards a hyper sense of specificity, of course, because we want to inform the creative process but not try to program algorithmically.”