Bob Iger’s vision for Disney is becoming clearer.
During his appearance at Morgan Stanley’s annual technology, media and telecommunications conference, Iger spoke at length about the future of the entertainment Goliath he once again finds himself leading, giving insight into his projects for media power.
The CEO touched on a wide range of topics, including Disney+, Marvel, “Star Wars,” and Hulu, among others. Here are some of the main takeaways:
► Quality over quantity: Iger said that as Disney seeks to reduce costs associated with television and film production, the company will prioritize quality over quantity. Iger said he was “satisfied” with the support he receives from “corporate content creators” and that they agree that a key part of reducing costs is “understanding the volume” actually needed.
► Disney+ pricing was ‘off’: Iger said he remains ‘generally bullish on streaming as a great consumer proposition’ but believes in Disney’s ‘zeal to develop global subs “, the company was “off in terms of … pricing strategy.” Iger said Disney is “now starting to learn more about it” and will “adapt accordingly.”
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► Too many Marvel sequels: Iger noted that there are plenty of characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that Disney can draw on to tell new stories, and suggested that maybe the company has been count too much on sequels based on existing franchises. “Do you need a third or a fourth, or is it time to turn to other characters?” Iger asked, adding that audiences should expect “a lot of new stuff” in the future. “We’re going back to the Avengers franchise, but with a whole set of different Avengers,” Iger said.
► Imperative to be “very careful” with “Star Wars”: Iger said the company is also be “very careful” in its take on the “Star Wars” franchise. Iger cited the “disappointing” box office performance of “Solo” and said it gave the company a “break.”
► Studying Hulu “very carefully”: Iger said Disney is Hulu’s “study the business”, of which he owns two-thirds, “very, very cautiously”. He said “the environment is very, very delicate right now” and that “before we make any big decisions about our level of investment and our commitment to this business, we want to understand where it might go.”
► “Bullish” on the future of ESPN: Iger praised ESPN ratings and pushed for streaming, saying his 25 million subscribers were “nothing to complain about”. Iger added, “When you combine the strength of live sports and the brand and value of advertising, you can create a business that is not just dependent on subscribers, but dependent on advertising and subscriber revenue. I think there is reason for optimism. But he added: “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to be open-minded about his future, but right now we’re optimistic about it.”
► Third-party licensing: Iger said Disney could again create content for rivals. “As we look to reduce the content we create for our own platforms, there are likely opportunities to license third parties,” Iger said. “For a while it was something we couldn’t do because we favored our own streaming platforms so much. But if we get to a point where we need less content for those platforms, and we have still have the ability to produce that content, why not use it to increase our revenue?”
► “Too aggressive” theme park pricing: Iger conceded that Disney was wrong about the price of his theme park. “In our zeal to increase profits, we may have been a bit too aggressive on some of our pricing,” Iger said. “I think there’s a way to continue to grow this business, but be smarter about how we’re evaluating to maintain that brand value of accessibility.”
► On Iger’s future: What’s at the top of Iger’s to-do list? Work on his ultimate exit. “Succession is pretty much at the top of the list,” Iger said, adding, “My goal is basically to go out two years from now with a trajectory…that’s very optimistic and positive.”