Bob Iger has a lot to say about Disney’s future. During a 40-minute interview with CNBC, the CEO talks about what the company could look like over the next four (or more) years under his control — and it could drastically change some of Disney’s biggest brands.
One of those changes includes slashing the company’s spending on Marvel and Star Wars-related content. As for why, Iger says the influx of Marvel TV shows “diluted focus and attention,” on its films, resulting in disappointing performances at the box office.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania was one of those films. It raked in just $463 million, making it one of the lowest-grossing Marvel movies of all time. Although that performance improved with the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, it seems that box office drop-off is part of the reason why Iger is rethinking where Disney’s money is going.
When asked whether Iger will pull back on Marvel and Star Wars, Iger says, “you pull back not just to focus, but also as part of our cost containment initiative. Spending less on what we make, and making less.” Iger also adds it is possible that Disney will license some of its original content to other streaming services, instead of just keeping it all on Disney Plus.
Disney’s linear business might be in for some changes as well. Iger hinted at looking “expansively” at opportunities for its cable TV networks, like ABC, National Geographic, and FX, potentially indicating Disney is exploring a sale of these channels. “They may not be core to Disney,” Iger says. “There’s clearly creativity and content that they create that is core to Disney, but the distribution model, the business model that forms the underpinning of that business, and that is delivered great profits over the years is definitely broken.”
As for ESPN, Iger says sports as an industry “stands very, very tall.” While Disney isn’t looking to spin off the network, Iger says the company might look into “strategic partners” that could help “with distribution or content.” He also adds that there is an “inevitability” to bringing the network off of cable, something that has been heavily hinted at in the recent past.
After stepping down as CEO in 2020, Bob Chapek, Disney’s former chairman of Parks, Experiences and Products Bob, took his spot. As Chapek contended with a pandemic-stricken economy, Disney was criticized for its response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as well as its handling of a dispute with Scarlett Johansson. Iger returned as CEO of Disney last November, telling CNBC the “challenges are greater than I had anticipated.”
In addition to the issues that Iger is internally blaming on Chapek, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Disney is also dealing with the writers’ and actors’ strikes that Iger believes are disruptive. “There’s a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic and they are adding to a set of challenges that this business is already facing that is quite frankly very disruptive and dangerous,” Iger says.
Joely Fisher, an actress and the national treasurer of SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents Hollywood actors, called Iger’s statement “bullshit” during an interview with CNN. “There are people that are making hundreds of millions of dollars,” Fisher says. “They are profiting on our backs and if we want a tiny little sliver of that ongoing, it is not unreasonable.”