Business

Disney CEO Bob Iger tells employees he wants to start building again during town hall

Bob Iger, Disney, at Apple program
Source: Apple

Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger told employees Tuesday during an internal town hall that he is looking forward to “building again” after spending 2023 mending parts of the business that “needed attention.”

“I feel that we’ve just emerged from a period of a lot of fixing to one of building again, and I can tell you building is a lot more fun than fixing,” said Iger, who was interviewed by ABC News anchor David Muir at New York’s Amsterdam Theater. After speaking alone for about 15 minutes, Iger was joined by Disney head of parks and resorts Josh D’Amaro, ESPN chief Jimmy Pitaro, and Disney Entertainment co-chairs Dana Walden and Alan Bergman.

Disney’s 2023 has been defined by 7,000 job cuts and a company-wide mission to cut spending. Disney said this month it projects to save $7.5 billion this year, largely through job elimination and content spending rollbacks.

Iger noted he acquired Pixar and Marvel in the early part of his tenure as Disney’s CEO, which began in 2005, to jumpstart an era of building at the company. This time, Iger won’t rely on acquisitions. Rather, he plans to expand Disney’s theme parks with a $60 billion commitment over the next 10 years, build an ESPN direct-to-consumer platform no later than 2025 and rebuild Disney’s movie studio business, which Iger said has suffered from making too many films.

Iger and Pitaro said they want to launch an ESPN streaming service with additional features such as advanced statistics and integration with fantasy sports to appeal to a younger audience. Pitaro is conducting research on how expensive to make the platform and when to launch, he noted.

“What Bob and I have talked about is we don’t just want to flip the switch,” Pitaro said. “We don’t want to just move our networks over and make them available over the top without significant product enhancements.”

Fixing the studio business

Iger and studio head Bergman acknowledged the quality of Disney films has suffered, while they emphasized the importance of movies for the entire company.

“When it comes to creating a perception of the company, nothing is more powerful than movies,” Iger said. “That’s perception among investors, perception among the audience, obviously consumers and also perception among our own employees.”

Iger noted that a string of hit movies can make people at Disney “giddy,” not only because the company’s brand is elevated within the culture, but also because of the synergies that flow through the business. A movie such as “Frozen” can churn out profitable sequels, boost Disney’s streaming service Disney+, set the foundation for theme park attractions and jumpstart consumer products.

Disney shares have risen 6.8% this year, underperforming the S&P 500, which is up about 18%. Iger is optimistic about Disney’s chance to build in 2024. But it’s unclear if investors will reward the company without more dramatic changes, such as selling off the company’s declining linear businesses or finding strategic partners for ESPN.

Iger acknowledged he’s still considering those options, but hasn’t made a decision on a path forward.

WATCH: Disney holds annual town hall amid stock declines

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