The House of the Mouse is leaving TV

Dealbook NYT column by Andrew Ross Sorkin

Iger closes a chapter of the streaming era

Even if Bob Iger, Disney’s C.E.O., didn’t have much to reveal about big-ticket M.&A. yesterday — other than continuing to suggest he may sell its legacy TV businesses — he did make news with the company’s quarterly earnings report.

Streaming is Disney’s future, Iger said, but the era of pursuing breakneck growth in the business is over. The strategy now is to extract more money from subscribers via hefty price increases for Disney+, and hoping that those efforts don’t drive them away.

Disney can’t afford to keep losing billions on streaming. The division lost $512 million in the most recent quarter, bringing its total losses since 2019 to over $11 billion. While the latest figure was less than analysts had expected, that performance is still untenable in the long term, leading Iger to follow Netflix’s example and raise prices for Disney+ and Hulu.

The increases were largely in the ad-free tiers: Starting in October, the monthly cost of Disney+ will go up to $14, double the service’s initial $7 price. (That’s in part because the ad-supported tiers actually make more money per user; Iger said the price increases were meant to nudge more subscribers to that tier, where prices will stay flat.) “We grew this business really fast, really before we even understood what our pricing strategy should be or could be,” he told analysts yesterday.

Didn’t Iger recently concede that their price increases at the parks had been “too aggressive” or something like that?


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Walt would be livid.


These days people pay more to visit their couches than to actually move their behinds.

I would be surprised to see Disney rid itself of its legacy television assets at least for a while. (I watched as they dismantled their radio operations, which were far better positioned than either NBC or CBS, so I don’t discount the possibility.)

But since the dawn of the television age Disney has used television to produce its content and franchises and to throw them into the public domain. The first Disney TV program was “Disneyland”, basically an hour long infomercial (more subtle than most) about the wonders Walt wrought in Southern California which aired on ABC every Sunday night (then the largest television watching night.)

[Sidebar: in order to build Disneyland he had to agree to produce television for ABC, which funded the project. ABC was having trouble acquiring programming; movie studios were threatened by this newfangled TV thing, and NBC and CBS has scooped up all the talent and producers who *would* make TV shows.]

Prior to TV Disney had to build all its franchises itself: Mickey Mouse, fairy tales were most of it, the occasional Fantasia (which flopped). After television, he used “Disneyland” to start franchises like Davey Crockett, Zorro, The Shaggy Dog, and used it to promote still others that would appear only in theaters: Flubber, Treasure Island, and a return to animation with Cinderella and more. (Eventually they made their way back to the small screen.)

At the dawn of the cable age Disney and Westinghouse joint ventured on a cable channel. Westinghouse, which owned a large swath of cable companies via acquisition of TCI lobbied for a subscription (pay) channel, Disney opted for a free channel - and used it well to promote an ever wider assortment of IP, which eventually because “more parks” and “retail stores” and a host of other stuff.

Eventually they started acquiring other IP: “Star Wars”, and Marvel, and Pixar and more, and used ABC and Disney Channel and other outlets like a club to promote all of this.

[The recent mass exploitation of “Barbie” gives an idea of what you can do given the right promotional assets. The Discovery Group of channels is owned by Warner Brothers, which made the film. “HGTV Barbie DreamHouse Challenge”, anyone?]

If they devolve to only streaming, they will lose some of the most effective (and free) access to promote their efforts into the zeitgeist. That’s gonna be hard to replace. Those assets may not be as valuable as they once were, but I would still call them irreplaceable. (The once that has always stood apart, for me, was ESPN which, while profitable, afforded almost no opportunity to integrate with the rest of the corporate assets. I would not be surprised to see that one go its separate way, assuming the gambling-mashup just announced doesn’t turn into a money gusher, and if it does, well, who doesn’t want one of those?)



The legacy TV is worthless running towards negative.

Disney + will probably get away with the price hike. TV exists no longer. Long live streaming. Disney does not have to pay for nearly as much infrastructure.

Florida is putting Disney World to the test. As the flagship Disney World losing its margin could be a death nell for Dis. The main test is if Disney + will carry the brand. If it does then Dis will do well going forward. As you are stating TV synergies are needed.