In what will most likely go down as the biggest industry story of 2022, yesterday folks were surprised to see news alerts on their phone reporting that Disney CEO Bob Chapek had been pushed out by Disney, with the prior CEO Bob Iger coming back to run Disney.
Since Chapek took over, he has jumped from one disaster to the next - whether that involved pissing off talent like Scarlet Johanson by cutting her off from profit participation after moving her film Black Widow to a streaming release, or pissing off Disney theme park attendees with punishingly expensive up-sells that are needed to have a good day at the park, or pissing off investors with a cratering stock value.
After a recent quarter that saw Disney stock fall to a 21 year low, the board decided they had enough and canned Chapek.
So now Iger is returning on a 2-year contract and is seen to be the guy who will right the ship. Right now, no one knows much more than what has been announced. But there is a great deal if speculation. And in the spirit of speculating, here's the questions I am keen to find out the answers to:
What does Iger do with Hulu? ESPN?
Sports rights are expensive. Audiences are declining. Does Iger spin-off ESPN to sell it off and get out of sports broadcasting? And what of Hulu? Co-owner Comcast is contracted to sell it back to Disney in early 2024. Does Disney buy back Hulu and just merge it into Disney+, which is largely how it functions internationally? Does Disney strike a deal with Comcast to instead sell them Hulu (CEO Brian Roberts has expressed an interest)
What is Iger expected to do in just 2 years?
If I'm bringing on board the next Disney CEO in the current ever-changing media climate, I am going to be looking for someone with vision as to where he wants to take the company. During Iger's tenure, he made massive acquisitions that expanded the footprint of Disney (namely buying Marvel and Star Wars). Is 2 years long enough to take another giant swing that grows the portfolio?
My assumption is that Iger chases one of the big gaming companies - it makes sense to get into gaming generally, but also with so many other players investing in the metaverse, Disney needs to have a stronger hand in interactive entertainment - it has the potential to be a HUGE threat to the theme parks business. I don't really know whether the company is in play, but I can't help but feel like Take Two (owner of Rockstar, publisher of the sprawling Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto games) would be an interesting acquisition target.
And then there's Netflix, which is being buzzed about and it's difficult not to see that as a highly desirable acquisition.
Who does Iger bring on board?
Bob recently cleaned out the executive offices and put in place his own trusted team. Iger will more than likely show those guys the door and put in place his own people. Part of the 2 year deal will apparently involve choosing a successor. So pay attention to those hires - they'll likely tell us who the next Disney CEO will be. And does recently ousted chairman of entertainment content Peter Rice get brought back in?
What does Iger do next?
Iger famously delayed his initial exit from Disney several times, leaving a long line of frustrated successors who never got their chance. Will Iger be satisfied leaving Disney after a relatively short 2-year term? It is unlikely - this is a guy who after leaving Disney tried to stay in the game, regularly taking lunches with talent and investors. Does he push for a contract extension? Or is he quietly prepping for the next thing? It isn't lost on me that Iger reportedly has political aspirations - if Joe Biden announces he won't run for a second term, it would be a relatively easy leap for Iger to cut short his contract by a few months and dive right into the US primaries.
This is what happens when big news breaks and gets reported on by the industry's largest trade publications... all owned by the same company:
Such diversity of reporting...
- RIP Supernatural star Nicki Aycox. She died at age 47. Read: Variety
- Previously one of Netflix's earliest originals, Hemlock Grove will join series Hannibal on Film Rise's AVOD and FAST channels following a new deal. Read: Deadline
- Chuck Lorre reportedly wrote a pilot and shopped it around town that was about his experiences working with Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men. It wasn't picked up. Big Tiger Juice claims another win. Read: THR
- Disney+ has commissioned its first Nordic original, based on the book How To Cook a Bear. This just opens the door to all sorts of confusion (outside the US) when people press play only to suddenly find it is less Nordic, and more about the goings on in a Chicago Beef Sandwich restaurant. Read: TBI Vision
- New Super Mario Kart courses are on the way thanks to a new DLC pack. Read: The Verge
- Jay Leno has been released from the burns unit, dressed in his trademark double denim and not dressed as Darkman. Disappointing on two fronts. Read: Deadline
- Netflix has struck a deal to keep its very first original drama Lilyhammer on the platform in the US. It disappeared from the Australian Netflix some time ago and doesn't appear likely to return. Read: The AV Club
And that's the newsletter for another day. Quietly, I'd expect to once again read the name Bob Iger in the newsletter tomorrow. Let's see...