Disney boss Bob Iger talks about the future of Marvel, ‘Star Wars,’ ESPN, and Hulu
Bob Iger’s vision for Disney is coming into greater focus.
In his appearance at Morgan Stanley’s annual Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, Iger spoke at length about the future of the entertainment Goliath he once again finds himself leading, providing a glimpse into his plans for the media powerhouse.
The CEO touched on a broad range of subjects, including Disney+, Marvel, “Star Wars,” and Hulu, among others. Here are some of the key takeaways:
► Quality over quantity: Iger said that as Disney looks to cut back on costs associated with producing television and films, the company will focus on quality over quantity. Iger said he is “pleased” with the support he is getting from “content creators of the company” and that they agree a key part of reducing costs is “understanding how much volume” is actually needed.
► Disney+ pricing was “off”: Iger said that he remains “generally bullish on streaming as a great consumer proposition,” but that he believes in Disney’s “zeal to grow global subs,” the company was “off in terms of … pricing strategy.” Iger said Disney is “now starting to learn more about it” and will “adjust 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 upon to tell new stories, and suggested that perhaps the company had been relying 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 newness” going forward. “We’re going to turn 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 that the company is also being “very careful” in its approach to the “Star Wars” franchise. Iger cited the “disappointing” box office performance of “Solo” and said it had given the company some “pause.”
► Studying Hulu “very carefully”: Iger said that Disney is “studying the business” of Hulu, which it owns two-thirds of, “very, very carefully.” He said that “the environment is very, very tricky right now” and that “before we make any big decisions about our level of investment and our commitment to that business, we want to understand where it could go.”
► “Bullish” about ESPN’s future: Iger praised ESPN’s ratings and push into streaming, saying that its 25 million subs is “nothing to sneeze at.” Iger added, “When you combine the strength of live sports and the brand and the value of advertising, you can create a business that’s not just subscriber dependent, but dependent on advertising and subscriber revenue. I think there’s a reason to be bullish.” But he added, “It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to be open-minded about its future, but right now, we’re bullish about it.”
► Third-party licensing: Iger said Disney could once again create content for its rivals. “As we look to reduce the content that we’re creating for our own platforms, there probably are opportunities to license to third parties,” Iger said. “For a while, that was something we couldn’t possibly do because we were so favoring our own streaming platforms. But if we get to a point where we need less content for these platforms, and we still have the capacity of producing that content, why not use it to grow revenue?”
► Theme park pricing “too aggressive”: Iger conceded that Disney erred on its theme park pricing. “In our zeal to grow profits, we may have been a little bit too aggressive about some of our pricing,” Iger said. “I think there’s a way to continue to grow that business, but be smarter about how we price so that we maintain that brand value of accessibility.”
► On Iger’s own future: What’s at the very top of Iger’s to-do list? Working on his ultimate exit. “Succession is pretty much at the top of the list,” Iger said, adding, “My goal is essentially to leave here in two years with a trajectory… that is very optimistic and positive.”