Disney’s Bob Iger On Managing Linear TV With Lower Content Spend

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In July of 2023, recently returned Disney CEO Bob Iger shocked the media industry by indicating he might be open to divesting the company’s declining  linear assets. By last fall, he’d changed his mind, declaring them not for sale. On interviews and earnings calls since, he’s explained why — most recently at the MoffettNathanson media conference, and in the midst of annual upfront presentations to advertisers.

“When I came back, I did declare that everything was on the table. Meaning I wanted to look at our asset base as a company and determine whether we were supporting assets that not only had no growth but were drags on our bottom line. I looked very extensively at traditional media. It was exhaustive in terms of our analysis. And ultimately, we concluded that … it’s not going to be a growth business, but it could become an important component to our ability to basically engage with the consumer,” Iger said during a Q&A Wednesday.

The key, he said, “is basically to reduce pretty dramatically our investment in content, specifically aimed at those traditional networks. Invest in some, but then manage the traditional platforms, networks, and the streaming platforms, seamlessly. So you’ve got the same executives managing both.” He’s referring to Dana Walden, co-chair of Disney Entertainment, who oversees the company’s full portfolio of entertainment media, news and content businesses globally, including streaming, and Jimmy Pitaro, chair of ESPN and sports, which is now one of three standalone Disney divisions.  

“Their goal is to drive bottom line growth. So you would put something on ABCGrey’s Anatomy, Abbott Elementary — and it goes on Hulu pretty quickly. In some cases, it’s simultaneous. And what we’re getting is an unduplicated audience” with ABC skewing older and Hulu younger. “We’re basically aggregating a greater audience, and we’re amortizing costs.”

Iger said the company is doing that across the board from Disney Channel to ABC to National Geographic, “and it’s working.”

 “We’re going to continue to see erosion … for those businesses, but we’re going to actually continue to drive profitability because we’re managing our costs so effectively … And I think they’ll play an important role.”

“We feel comfortable with our hands right now, because we’re using those networks efficiently and effectively.”

Earlier this week, Iger took the stage at the Disney/ABC upfront presentation for the first time since 1994, musing on how things have changed. “For instance, television used to be something you watched on a television.” But he said “success in this industry is really predicated on one thing, and that is telling great stories … And great storytelling is something Disney has always excelled at.”

View original source here.

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