Bob Iger Says Traditional Television Stations May Not Be “Core to Disney”
Of all the updates that Iger gave on The Walt Disney Company, perhaps nothing was more shocking than Iger’s suggestion that Disney could sell its linear TV assets.
More Problems Than Anticipated
Upon his return to Disney last November, Iger says that he became aware that the company had more problems than he was aware of, chief among these is linear television, which continues to struggle amid an ever-changing media landscape.
“After coming back, I realized the company is facing a lot of challenges, some of them self-inflicted,” Iger said.
According to Iger, when he left the company in 2020 he was “very pessimistic” about the future of traditional TV. Since his return, however, he says things are worse than expected.
While Iger may be pessimistic about the future of linear television, Disney is heavily invested in the medium. In addition to ESPN, which Iger says is a separate issue, Disney owns a slew of networks including the ABC family of networks, FX, The Disney Channel, Disney Junior, and National Geographic.
Linear TV May Not Be “Core to Disney”
As traditional television cedes its popularity to streaming, this reliance on linear TV poses a significant threat to Disney’s future.
According to Iger, Disney is going to be open-minded when it comes to the future of linear TV. This could mean changing the business structure, finding strategic partners, or even selling off its TV channel assets.
“We are going to be expansive… We are just getting at that work. But we have to be open-minded and objective about the future of those businesses,” Iger said.
When pressed if his statement meant that Disney’s television networks were not “core to Disney,” Iger agreed that they may not be.
“They may not be core to Disney. The creativity and content they create is core to Disney, but the distribution model, the business model that forms the underpinning of that business, and that has delivered great profits over the years, is definitely broken. And we have to call it like it is.”
Iger was also quick to point out that ESPN has long benefited from the model of linear television. According to the Disney CEO however, the company sees ESPN differently.
Preparing Disney For Change
In the end, Disney has not yet made a decision on what to do with its television assets. Regardless of whether or not it owns the stations, however, Disney will continue to create the content.
Iger’s latest comments on traditional TV are the starkest yet, for an executive who has been a part of the television industry for almost 50 years. Nevertheless, Iger can see where linear television is heading, and he wants to make sure Disney is ready.
“There is a reality to it that we have to come to grips with. And we have to come to grips with that now.”
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