Disney is counting on Bob Iger to make hard decisions about its streaming and TV assets — or find someone who will

by | Nov 22, 2022 | Business

Bob Iger, chairman and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company, pauses while speaking during an Economic Club of New York event in Midtown Manhattan on October 24, 2019 in New York City.Drew Angerer | Getty ImagesFor nearly three years, Bob Chapek had a plan at Disney: Bob Iger’s plan.”We are all-in [on streaming],” Iger said in April 2019, when he unveiled Disney+, the company’s flagship streaming service, which now has more than 164 million subscribers worldwide. Ten months later, Iger announced he’d step down as CEO, effective immediately.related investing newsAfter he took over as chief executive, Chapek shifted Disney’s corporate structure to better align with a streaming-first world. Iger didn’t agree with the way he did it, but the general idea of building up Disney+ by spending billions on new content was in lockstep with Iger’s strategy. For a while, that strategy worked. Disney shares surged during the pandemic even as theme parks closed and movies were kept out of theaters. Investors cheered money-losing streaming services as long as they showed hypergrowth.But as interest rates rose and Netflix customer growth plateaued earlier this year, the music stopped. Disney+ added 12.1 million subscribers this month and shares tanked. Much of this change in narrative was actually of Disney’s own doing, as Chapek (and other media executives) pushed getting to profitability over subscriber growth. Part of that shift was Disney’s realization that it likely wasn’t going to hit its target of 230 million to 260 million Disney+ subscribers by 2024. Chapek lowered that bar in August. Disney shares have fallen nearly 40% year to date.Of course, while Iger said Disney was all-in on streaming, the reality was it wasn’t, and it still isn’t. Disney has held on to ESPN as the linchpin of the cable bundle. Today, just as in 2019, ESPN’s premier sporting events (its main “Monday Night Football” broadcast, for instance), can only be seen on cable.Time for a new planNow, the Disney board has turned to Iger to come up with a new plan — or at least to choose a new leader who has one — over at least the next two years. Reorganizing the company to put “more decision-making back in the hands of our creative teams,” as Iger noted in his memo to employees yesterday, is an easy, and necessary, first move. But it’s more of a process change than a strategic one.Iger’s biggest challenge will be choosing which Disney assets should be sold or spun off in the coming years, said Rich Greenfield, an analyst at LightShed partners. This wouldn’t be easy for any CEO, but it especially won’t be easy for Iger, who built the modern Disney with …

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