Bog Iger returned to lead The Walt Disney Company last week under a two-year contract, hoping to lead the entertainment giant back to growth. The CEO hosted his first companywide meeting with employees, addressing potential dealmaking questions, and the hiring freeze ex-CEO Bob Chapek put in place, following Disney’s recent lacklustre quarterly earnings report. As per The Hollywood Reporter, Iger intends to uphold that practice, calling it a “wise move given the sector’s challenges,” as he continues figuring out ways to return Disney to profitability. But the biggest comment the returning CEO made was in shooting down the notion of Apple acquiring Disney as “pure speculation,” adding that he won’t be heading any buyouts during his tenure, either.
Chapek’s firing caused many on Wall Street and in media circles to speculate the idea of a Disney buyout, “including acquisitions to service its reported $5.5 billion (about Rs. 44,950 crore) in debt, or an outright sale to a tech monolith like Apple.” Variety notes that employees were “ruffled” by Iger’s new mandate, calling for people to return to the office. “I happen to believe that in creative businesses, there is tremendous value in working from the same place,” he told Disney employees (via The Hollywood Reporter). “It creates an energy, it is very enabling to creativity… I am not making any proclamations but I think that is extremely important.”
Iger, who was responsible for the launch of Disney’s marquee streaming service Disney+ — operating as Disney+ Hotstar in India — stated that the company should prioritise revenue growth over subscriber count. “Instead of chasing [subscribers] with aggressive marketing and aggressive spend on content, we have to start chasing profitability,” Iger said during the town-hall meeting (via Reuters). “In order to achieve that, we have to take a very, very hard look at our cost structure across our businesses.” A report from earlier this month suggested that Disney+ added over 12 million subscribers this quarter, amounting to a total of 235 million this year. Out of that, Disney+ Hotstar was responsible for less than 3 million.
The CEO also addressed Disney’s stance on LGBTQ+ inclusion, over the company’s response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prevented teachers from discussing such topics in schools. According to IGN, Disney got caught in the matter when it was revealed that it had donated close to $200,000 (about Rs. 1.6 crore) to Florida politicians, who supported the legislation. Since the company operates the Disney World theme park in the state, it was natural for them to be involved in the political side of it. After days of criticism from internal employees and the general public across social media, Chapek sent out a letter acknowledging how painful his silence must have been and apologising for the ordeal.
As for the studio’s stance on the matter now, Iger said, “one of the core values of our storytelling is inclusion, and acceptance and tolerance. And we can’t lose that, we just can’t lose that… how we actually change the world through the good must continue. We’re not going to make everyone happy all the time, and we’re not [going to] try to. We’re certainly not going to lessen our core values in order to make everyone happy all the time.”