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CEO Bob Iger: Less Is More, Diversity of Content Distribution, Including Home Entertainment, Among New Disney Focuses

CEO Bob Iger: Less Is More, Diversity of Content Distribution, Including Home Entertainment, Among New Disney Focuses

Disney CEO Bob Iger is putting a singular focus on operating costs companywide as media companies re-evaluate existing “all-in streaming” business strategies that have led to skyrocketing fiscal losses and cooling subscriber growth, including a $1 billion loss at Disney’s direct-to-consumer digital segment in the most-recent quarter.

Speaking March 9 at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in San Francisco, Iger, who prefaced his renewed business outlook by claiming to be bullish on streaming, said the company has to figure out SVOD pricing in order to justify ongoing spending.

Iger in February announced companywide job cuts totaling 7,000 as part of an effort to reduce operating costs by more than $5.5 billion.

Calling streaming video the “ultimate” a-la-carte entertainment proposition, Iger said the ease with which consumers can jump and switch between streaming platforms at minimal or no cost has to be rationalized when it comes to subscription pricing.

“In our zeal to grow global subs, I think we were off in terms of that [too low] pricing strategy, and we’re now starting to learn more about it to adjust accordingly,” he said.

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When asked about the status of Disney’s majority stake ownership of Hulu, and opportunity to buy Comcast’s remaining 33% stake for a minimum $27.5 billion in 2024, Iger said the current “very tricky” economic environment informs Disney’s future plans with Hulu.

“Before we make any big decisions about our level of investment, our commitment to our business, we want to understand where [Hulu] could go,” he said.

In addition to growing digital subscribers across Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu and Hulu+ Live TV, Iger says renewed focus on platform content spending and distribution has to be put on the table and out of the streaming basket.

Indeed, when David Zaslav became CEO of the new Warner Bros. Discovery media company, he was surprised to find that 60% of the content on HBO Max was not being viewed. That’s a reality apparently not lost on Iger, who abruptly replaced his successor — and big streaming champion — Bob Chapek late last year in part because of ballooning streaming costs and losses.

While admitting Disney+ will not see the “meteoric” subscriber growth experienced upon launch in late 2019, Iger contends the platform remains relatively new in international markets, excluding India, which comprises more than a third of all Disney+ subscribers.

The CEO criticized his predecessor’s business restructuring that he called, “basically a giant revenue-generating division,” that separated distribution, advertising, sales, subscriptions, etc., from content creation, where Iger said all the money was being spent.

“I happen to believe there needs to be a direct connection between what’s being spent and what’s being earned from a revenue perspective,” he said. “It’s all about accountability. It’s about understanding the marketplace, so when you make decisions on spending, it’s tied directly to revenue generation and vice-versa.”

Iger claimed too much was being spent on marketing platforms and not enough on marketing content and programs.

“That needed to be put back together not just for sanity purposes, but also because there are opportunities to reduce expenses,” he said.

“I don’t think it was as efficient as it could have been … or as targeted as it should have been,” he said, in relation to the $3 billion in content spending cuts. “The emphasis needs to be on quality of content, not volume.”

As a result, in addition to delegating operational, marketing and financial responsibilities to business segment senior executives, Iger wants to revisit distributing content across all channels, including legacy home entertainment.

Disney reported a Q1 operating loss of $212 million on revenue of $2.46 billion in its “content sales/licensing and other” segment, in part due to a dearth of home entertainment releases. The decrease in home entertainment results were due to lower unit sales of new release titles, reflecting fewer releases, and catalog titles.

Iger believes the push toward streaming theatrical titles undermined the licensing and retail businesses.

“Home video, at one point as we called it, was extremely lucrative for our company,” Iger said. “We’re looking at all of that [again].”

The CEO believes content can co-exist on traditional distribution platforms and streaming without damaging either due to differing platform audiences.

“It’s already clear to us that the content exclusivity that we felt would be so valuable in growing subscribers was not as valuable as we thought,” Iger said. “While eventually everything will migrate to streaming. We’re not there yet.”

3 thoughts on “CEO Bob Iger: Less Is More, Diversity of Content Distribution, Including Home Entertainment, Among New Disney Focuses”

  1. Well said. Bob Iger!

    This guys know what he is talking about when people are already discussing the current status of the Home Video entertainment industry.

    Everyone was not going to be in favour of a streaming only future on the internet when watching movies or shows. We needed to have a balance in the argument that physical media needed to stay in the fight when things got a little bit tough for the hard copied media market during the past few years.

    It was inevitable that streaming was not going to be the true champion of home entertainment at this current time. It might come back in the near future though. However I am taking a big gamble here when I say these words on this site.

    When we see the large price increases taking place on various streaming services over the past year or so; these moves have always proved to be more unpopular from subscribers who have been recently paying a lot more money for a lot less content.

    Something had got to give here. And paying for Streaming services was the only problem that broke many people’s wallets. When we saw the higher prices coming onto the streaming service arena. We knew that people had a specific limit with how they were going to spend their money. Relying on these platforms was never going to last forever.

    A Netflix 4k subscription in Ireland from last year would have cost you about €20 a month. I don’t know if that price has increased again or stayed the same at this time.

    However; that sort of price is really unsustainable now when you are relying on streaming services to give you access to your favourite content.

    It should be regarded as a ‘hit or miss’ strategy over the long run.

  2. Orlando Marchena: I personally still feel more inclined to buy physical media. I absolutely LOVE the bonus material on special editions of “A Bugs Life” , “Finding Nemo” , ” X-Men” and many other titles. To be blunt : I think that most people who prefer streaming and dismiss physical media as “passé ” are not loyal customers. Of course streaming media has it’s own merits : Spotify has a very large catalogue and is very useful as a research tool. However NOTHING beats an autographed album-sleeve!

  3. My god. Why does it require an advanced understanding of the intricacies of high-level English language skills to parse what this man is saying? That’s the biggest helping of political gobbledygook I’ve had to try to digest in a long minute.

    Despite that, here’s a translation for the masses:

    From the article:
    The CEO criticized his predecessor’s business restructuring that he called, “basically a giant revenue-generating division,” that separated distribution, advertising, sales, subscriptions, etc., from content creation, where Iger said all the money was being spent.

    “I happen to believe there needs to be a direct connection between what’s being spent and what’s being earned from a revenue perspective,” he said. “It’s all about accountability. It’s about understanding the marketplace, so when you make decisions on spending, it’s tied directly to revenue generation and vice-versa.”

    Translation:
    “The guy in charge before me really wrecked the place. His worst decision was to let creators do whatever they wanted without being forced to concern themselves with the fiduciary side of making entertainment for profit. I intend to make anyone who gets money from us to make their movie or series demonstrate that they are intimately aware of the need for their projects to earn a positive return on investment.”

    From the article:
    “It’s already clear to us that the content exclusivity that we felt would be so valuable in growing subscribers was not as valuable as we thought,” Iger said. “While eventually everything will migrate to streaming. We’re not there yet.”

    Translation:
    “By trying to make it so that the only place you could watch OUR stuff was on OUR streaming service, we discovered that we had actually closed ourselves off from a huge part of the market that doesn’t want to be forced into just one source for entertainment. Silly consumers… wanting choice… heh. Are they stupid? Still, for the time being, we, unfortunately, are going to have offer our content via more broadly diverse markets, until we can arrange it so that in the end, we get what we want with being a single-source provider.”

    This personal comment has been brought to you by The Resistance Media Group.

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