At town hall, Bob Iger tells Disney employees, ‘I never thought they’d come back’ – Hollywood Reporter

Bob Iger

Bob Iger

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Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger told company employees that his second term as CEO has been more difficult than expected, but he is still “optimistic” about the future of the entertainment giant.

“I knew there would be countless challenges when I returned,” Iger said at an employee town hall Tuesday afternoon. “I’m not saying it was easy, but I never questioned the decision to come back and it still feels great to be back.”

The veteran manager continued: “I’ve spent the year with the team fixing a lot of things… but I feel like we’ve just moved from a period where we had to fix a lot to a period of building again , and I can say this. “Building is much more fun than repairing.”

He added that with the repair work behind him and the building ahead, he has high hopes for the future.

“I’m talking about optimism being an extremely important quality in a leader because no one wants to follow a pessimist,” Iger said. “But I also believe that hopeless optimism does no one any good. I think there’s a real reason – and we as Disney have a real reason – to be optimists, and that starts with the fact that we’re Disney. And Disney, as you know, is a brand in itself, but also an umbrella company that houses a lot of assets and a lot of great brands. So the No. 1 reason for optimism is this.”

Iger’s town hall came a year after he hosted a similar event for Disney employees, just weeks after his surprise return to the company as CEO. This time the event was held in New York (Iger is scheduled to speak at the New York Times Dealbook Conference on Wednesday) at the New Amsterdam Theater (home of the Broadway show Aladdin) and was moderated by ABC News anchor David Muir.

Since last year’s event, the company has undergone a dramatic change. Iger restructured the company into three divisions: Disney Entertainment, Sports (including ESPN), and Experiences and Products; and he launched a major cost-cutting initiative by laying off around 7,000 employees to streamline the company’s structure.

At ESPN, some high-profile talent was shown the door, and at ABC News, a wave of top executives were let go. The “Metaverse” division created by Bob Chapek was also closed.

Iger revealed in the company’s latest earnings report that Disney was on track to achieve $7.5 billion in cost cuts, which was $2 billion more than previously expected.

All of Iger’s priorities were brought up during the town hall meeting, where Iger was joined by entertainment co-chairs Dana Walden and Alan Bergman, ESPN boss Jimmy Pitaro and Experiences chairman Josh D’Amaro.

Regarding Disney’s linear TV assets, Iger said he regretted the interpretation of a CNBC interview in July, telling Muir he didn’t think “everyone would run with the story that everything is being sold, which is not the case.” “, per a source.

Iger said no decisions have been made about the future of the company’s linear entertainment properties, but added: “We are trying to transition those businesses to the new business model.”

“As with all of our companies, we must do this to fundamentally serve shareholders. Again, let’s look at the future of our entire company with the question, ‘Will these companies grow?’” Iger added. “Will they stay the same or maybe lose value? And if so, what should we do about it?”

Walden added that the company is increasingly focused on programming and strategies where the linear networks complement the company’s streaming portfolio.

“We found that our linear channels are very deeply embedded in our streaming strategy,” Walden said. “They want to watch live shows, sports, live events – they want to watch them in a certain time period, and that’s largely on linear channels… The idea of ​​a community event still exists largely linearly.”

She cited “The Golden Bachelor” as an example of how this strategy can be implemented:

“It launches on ABC and then goes straight to Hulu hours later,” she said, “still reaching nearly 15 million viewers, but we’re meeting our viewers where they are.”

Regarding ESPN, Iger reiterated that one of his top priorities is “making ESPN the preeminent digital sports platform and ultimately bringing ESPN directly to consumers rather than just through cable and satellite.”

Pitaro added that the company is currently “in the market and conducting research. We look at things like timing, things like price.”

“Our mission is to serve the sports fan anytime, anywhere,” he added. “So if you want to continue to access ESPN the traditional way via cable or satellite, you can do so even if we’ve overdone it.”

He acknowledged that they are “talking to potential partners in the market, looking at technology, marketing and then content,” but that the company is willing to go it alone if necessary. Iger said the company was “fully prepared,” but added that it could become “more challenging” without a partner, a source said.

Iger and D’Amaro also drew attention to the recently announced $60 billion park investment.

“We stood on stage in front of a community of investors just a few weeks ago and said we’re going to invest $60 billion in this business over the next decade because we believe in it,” D’Amaro said. “We saw what it did. We see the impact it has on our guests and fans around the world. We have so much space to play. For example, Disneyland, Walt’s original theme park, we still have enough space to build another Disneyland there if we choose to do so. So many stories to be told, so many new places to visit. So we’ve come a long way in the last few years, but we’re incredibly excited about the future.”