After years of keeping all of Disney’s intellectual property as close to home as possible, a Disney source says Bloomberg that pressure to rein in streaming costs could lead the studio to sell movies and shows to other companies. It’s not as radical as it sounds – many studios produce content, which is then marketed for the highest bidder to distribute – but it’s a starting point for Iger in particular and Disney in general. Even before the advent of streaming and the launch of Disney+, the studio has always controlled distribution more tightly than most others.
Disney has not responded to the report and likely will not. Next week, Iger will chair a shareholder earnings call, and during that call, he’ll present some more concrete steps he’s taking to improve Disney’s performance.
When Iger retired in 2020, he handed over leadership of the company to former Disney Parks chief Bob Chapek, who made some radical changes during his short time as CEO. Iger stayed on the board and wasn’t shy when it came to decisions he didn’t like. So when the company turned in its stock market performance in decades in 2022, it was clear that change was coming.
Disney’s streaming division reportedly posted a $1.5 billion loss in the third quarter of last year, prompting the board to remove Chapek and bring Iger out of retirement in hopes of righting things. He has been quick to make changes, many of which merely reverse Chapek’s decisions, but some argue that he is not making dramatic enough changes. Activist investor Nelson Peltz has been trying to secure a seat on the board where he would have more power to force changes.
Most streaming services have been running at a loss since the beginning of the streaming era. Typically, executives and investors have tolerated it, as streaming is seen as the future of film and television, which is why building a quality streaming platform is a long-term strategic investment. With the recent economic downturn, there has been increasing pressure on studios to minimize any losses, and this has led to some wild strategies to generate short-term profits.
Disney still has some content on other streaming platforms, and always has – but starting in 2019 with the launch of Disney+, not only did they start pushing all of their biggest releases directly to the platform, but they also decided not to release any Disney+ . originals on physical media. That means the company has incurred huge losses, both in licensing fees they used to get from other streamers to distribute Disney projects, and in home video sales – an area where Disney remains one of the largest and most successful players.