Bob Iger: We’ve Made Progress

Disney CEO Bob Iger said in CNBC’s Squawk Box : Work To Be Done On ‘Improving Our Creative Output’

In a wide-ranging conversation with CNBC’s Squawk Box , Disney CEO Bob Iger discussed various challenges faced by the company.

Bob said:It was a good 11 months. And I came back to the company at the request of the board as a company that I started working at in 1974, 49 years ago when it was ABC and we became part of Disney. And I obviously have deep passion for the company and in the business. I care a lot about the people. And after coming back, realize that the company was facing a number of challenges some self inflicted, some caused by changes in the business, large scale disruption of certain parts of the business. And while a lot of work has been accomplished in the seven or so months that I’ve been back, the Board believes and I agree with him that there was a lot more work to do. And the timetable that we initially established, which was two years seemed like was putting undue pressure on us even though we’re getting at the work really quickly, but to accomplish everything we wanted to accomplish so part of it was designed for continued stability and continuity, and also to give a team of very talented executives that work with me, time not only to help me through what is a challenging period, but to develop themselves.

About the future of Disney, Bob replied that If you look at today’s media landscape, sports stands very, very tall in terms of its ability to convene millions and millions of people all at once. There’s almost a guarantee that that occurs. It’s an advertiser’s dream. There’s a great demographic there and it lends itself to technology in many ways, both in terms of coverage, distribution, and consumption. And our position in that business is very unique. We have a great brand. We’ve had a great business, and we want to stay in that business. That said we’re going to be open minded there too.

Speaking about Disney animation, Bob said that the studio and its movie assets are number one at the global box office this year so far. That said, we’re extremely realistic and I’m very objective about that business and there have been some disappointments. We would have liked some of our more recent releases to have performed better. It’s reflective for – not as a problem from a personnel perspective, but I think in our zeal to basically grow our content significantly to serve mostly our streaming offerings, we ended up taxing our people way beyond in terms of their time and their focus way beyond where they had been. Marvel’s a great example of that. They had not been in the TV business at any significant level. Not only did they increase their movie output, but they ended up making a number of television series. And frankly, it diluted focus and attention. And I think you’re seeing that as I think more of the cause than anything else.

Speaking about Pixar specifically, he acknowledged that the strategy of offloading the studio’s films direct to streaming may have not been the best idea, while adding that some of the recent struggles at the studio have been due to “creative misses.” Said Iger.

For the futuer of Disney animation, Bob thought that the company’s 100 years old.  Walt Disney went into the animation business, starting with you know, shorts in the 1920s.  And obviously his big first feature with “Snow White” in 1937.  If you look at his history, there were peaks and there are valleys.  Every valley was followed by a peak.  And I studied it very carefully.  It is true in my predecessor, Michael Eisner’s days, too.  The great halcyon days of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Little Mermaid” and “Lion King” and just this tremendous success.  And then there’s a dip.  I’m not suggesting we’re necessarily in that but I’m also not suggesting that we’re at a peak either.  That we have some work to do there in terms of improving our creative output.


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