Disney CEO Bob Iger says company is ready to start building

November 28, 2023 – 8:43 PM UTC

The Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger attends the Nominees Luncheon for the 95th Oscars in Beverly Hills, California, U.S. February 13, 2023. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo
The Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger attends the Nominees Luncheon for the 95th Oscars in Beverly Hills, California, U.S. February 13, 2023. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo

(Reuters) – Walt Disney (DIS.N) CEO Bob Iger told employees he faced a “myriad of challenges” upon returning to the company but he remained upbeat about its prospects.


“I won’t say that it was easy,” Iger said in remarks at a company-wide town hall Tuesday at the New Amsterdam Theatre, according to people who attended the meeting. “But I’ve never second-guessed the decision to come back.”

In remarks that mirrored those of Disney’s recent earnings call, Iger said the company is poised to begin building its business again, after a year of restructuring to responded to wrenching changes in the industry caused by streaming.

“I feel that we’ve just emerged from a period of a lot of fixing to one of building again,” Iger said. “And I can tell you building is a lot more fun than fixing.”

Iger was joined on stage by the leaders of the company’s business segments, Disney Entertainment co-chairmen Alan Bergman and Dana Walden, ESPN Chair Jimmy Pitaro and parks chief Josh D’Amaro. The presentation, moderated by ABC News’ David Muir, marks the one-year anniversary of Iger’s first town hall since rejoining the company as chief executive in November 2022.

The presentation took place against the backdrop of pressure from activist investor Nelson Peltz, who is planning a new board challenge at Walt Disney less than a year after the Burbank, California, entertainment giant laid out plans that addressed his initial criticisms.

Iger is scheduled to appear Wednesday at the New York Times’ DealBook summit.

Disney has undergone a transformation under Iger, who restructured the company and streamlined operations to make the business more cost effective. It is on track to exceed the $5 billion in cost savings it promised investors in February.

Iger also has said the company is evaluating options with regard to its profitable but declining television business, as traditional cable and satellite distributors continue to lose subscribers. Disney also is seeking investors in ESPN, as it prepares to make its flagship sports network available via streaming at some point in the future.

The town hall remarks broke little new ground. Shares were down 2.8% at $92.52 in late trading.

Pitaro said ESPN’s coming streaming service would serve the sports fan “anywhere, anytime,” existing alongside the television network available on cable and satellite TV. He did not provide fresh details about Disney’s efforts to attract a potential partner, who could assist with the digital transition.

D’Amaro recapped the company’s plans to invest $60 billion over the next decade on its theme parks.

Iger talked about finding efficiencies in the company’s declining television business, as the streaming marketplace grows.

Walden described television as the place where viewers still tune in to watch live sports, shows and events. “The notion of a communal event still exists largely on linear,” she said, using the industry term for broadcast, cable and satellite TV.

Programming developed for traditional television viewing would also fuel the streaming services, Walden said, with a network TV show like “The Golden Bachelor,” initially airing on ABC and arriving hours later on Hulu to reach a total of 15 million viewers.

Iger acknowledged Disney’s recent box office struggles, which he described as a volume problem.

“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,” Iger said. “I think when it comes to creativity, quality is critical, of course, and quantity in many ways can destroy quality.”

With the dual Hollywood strikes now ended, Bergman said he was looking forward to a summer theatrical slate with such releases as “Deadpool 3,” “Inside Out 2” and a new installment in the “Planet of the Apes” film franchise.

“A number of our movies are ramping up over the next few weeks, our series as well,” he said. “We’re getting back as quickly as we can.”

Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski in New York, Editing by Nick Zieminski

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