Disney Broken, Iger Can’t Fix

Disney Broken, Iger Can’t Fix

December 17, 2022

Investors and the Disney board have convinced themselves that long-time CEO Bob Iger, barely retired, can return to the company and fix it. Too much of Disney is broken to be repaired. And much of what is broken was broken by Iger.

Iger returned to Disney last month and took the job from his successor, Bob Chapek. Iger picked Chapek. If Chapek failed, much of the disaster that killed Disney’s stock and earnings belonged to Iger. The Wall Street Journal recently reported Iger never left and undermined Chapek “from the shadows.” It is additional evidence that Iger was part of Disney’s downfall, even if it was not immediately evident.

Of all the mistakes Disney made, the worst was the price tag it put on its Disney+ streaming service when Iger launched it. Disney+ was launched in November 2019. Priced at $6.99, Iger gambled that the price, lower than almost any service in the industry, would bring subscribers. He was right. Two years after its launch, Disney+ had 162 million subscribers, which put it in the class of industry leaders Netflix and Amazon.

The most recently reported quarter was not a total disaster for Disney, at least at the top line. Investors savaged the stock, nevertheless. Revenue rose 9% to $20.1 billion. Operating income was flat at $1.7 million. The figures for the “direct to consumer” business were decimated. Revenue was up 8% to %1,7 billion. The business lost $1.5 billion, which cost Chapek his job more than other factors. Among the most telling numbers was the Disney+ revenue per subscriber started to fall.

Disney+ has raised its price. The new price is $10.99 a month. An advertising-supported version is priced at $7.99. However, this remains well below Amazon’s $14.99. The new Disney+ price is too low to salvage its final problems. And, what may become evident soon, is that the sharp increase could drive churn, which is the primary enemy of successful streaming businesses. A price increase will cause some people to cancel. It won’t be long to see how many.

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The truth about the value of Iger’s return is in the stock price. Shareholders have voted, as Disney’s stock has not recovered since Iger came back. It is down 41% this year and has dropped since Iger came back through the door.

Iger broke Disney, and the stock market says he won’t fix it.

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