Bob Iger Stresses Quality Over Quantity During Disney Town Hall
Over the past year, a lot has changed for The Walt Disney Company — namely the ousting of former CEO Bob Chapek and the reinstatement of Bob Iger as CEO.
A year later, Bob Iger hosted a company town hall to discuss “recent achievements and future building opportunities.” So what exactly was discussed? Let’s talk about it.
Town Hall Meeting
As reported by Deadline, Bob Iger and top Disney executives discussed a variety of topics during today’s town hall meeting, including quality of quantity content, ESPN, the parks, and the future of Disney’s television business.
For the meeting at New York City’s Amsterdam theater, speakers included Iger, ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro, Josh D’Amaro, Dana Walden, and Alan Bergman.
On Iger Returning to Disney
Iger reflected on the past year, saying, “I spent the year with the team fixing a lot of things. But I feel that we’ve just emerged from a period of a lot of fixing to one of building again and I can tell you building is a lot more fun than fixing.”
“I knew that there were myriad challenges that I would face coming back. I won’t say that it was easy, but I’ve never second guessed the decision to come back, and being back still feels great,” said Iger.
Optimism was one of the unofficial themes of the meeting, with Iger saying, “I talk about optimism being an extraordinarily important trait of a leader, because no one wants to follow a pessimist. But I also believe that hopeless optimism doesn’t do anybody any good.
“I have, I think, real reason—and we have real reason as Disney—to be optimists, and it starts with the fact that we’re Disney. And Disney, as you know, is a brand unto itself, but it’s also an umbrella company that houses many assets and many great brands. So, reason to be optimistic No. 1 is that.”
There is not yet any update on ESPN’s strategic partners, but it was noted that ESPN is on track for a 2025 direct-to-consumer streaming launch.
ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro said that they are currently researching and looking into pricing, timing, and product enhancements.
He said, “Our mission is to serve the sports fan anytime, anywhere. So, if you want to continue to access ESPN in the traditional way through cable or satellite, you’ll be able to do that even once we take it over the top…but if you do want to buy it directly without subscribing to a cable or satellite package, you’ll be able to do that.”
Josh D’Amaro discussed the $60 billion investment in the parks division and touted the rise in attendance since COVID.
D’Amaro said, “We stood up on the stage just several weeks back in front of an investor community and said we are going to invest $60 billion in the next 10 years into this business because we believe in it. We’ve seen what it’s done. We see the impact that it has on our guests and fans around the world.
“We’ve got so much space to play with. Disneyland for example, Walt’s original theme park, we still have enough room to build another Disneyland there if we choose to do that. So many stories to continue to tell, so many new places to go. So, we’re, we’ve come a long way in the last few years but incredibly excited about the future.”
Quality over Quantity
Iger, as well as Alan Bergman, acknowledged the troublesome year Disney has experienced in the film industry, with low attendance for films such as The Marvels, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, and, most recently, Wish.
Iger said, “In assessing some of our performance, recently, one of the reasons I believe it’s fallen off a bit is that we were making too much. I think when it comes to creativity, quality is critical, of course, and quantity in many ways can destroy quality. Storytelling, obviously, is the core of what we do as a company.”
Bergman noted that the company can learn from this year and move forward with 2024-scheduled projects such as Inside Out 2, Deadpool 3, a new Alien film, The Omen prequel, and a new Planet of the Apes film.
Bergman and Iger also commented on the resolution of the SAG-AFTRA strike, with Bergman saying, “We’re really excited that we were able to come to deals with our partners.”
Iger added, “We obviously want to build our studio back to making not only great films consistently but [to] our preeminent status in the business.”
Hulu, Disney+, and ABC
Dana Walden discussed the Hulu and Disney+ plans to integrate into a single app, which is scheduled for beta testing soon and on track for a March 2024 debut.
Walden also discussed the differences in the audiences between Hulu and ABC, with Hulu attracting people ages 30+, while ABC typically has a 60+ audience. Combined, these can appeal to a wide variety of ages, with shows like The Golden Bachelor attracting viewership via the broadcast network and then Hulu hours later.
According to Iger, “We’ve been in the streaming business now for just four years and we accomplished a tremendous amount there. I’d like to build that streaming business into something even more significant than it is.”
Iger said that ultimately, Disney’s priorities include building out the theme parks, bringing ESPN directly to consumers, and establishing ESPN as “the preeminent digital sports platform.”
The meeting ended with no Q&A session, which reportedly resulted in “some grumbling,” according to Deadline.
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