Disney Unplugs Metaverse Unit During Initial Round Of Layoffs

Disney Unplugs Metaverse Unit During Initial Round Of Layoffs

March 28, 2023

Disney has eliminated a small business unit focused on exploring the metaverse, part of its initial efforts to reduce its workforce by about 7,000 employees.

About 50 workers were part of the group dedicated to “next-generation storytelling and consumer experiences.” The elimination of the unit, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, was confirmed to Deadline by a person familiar with the staff reductions.

Mike White, a former consumer products exec who had been leading the unit, will remain at the company in a yet-to-be-determined role, the source said. On Monday, Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed in a staff memo that the first of three rounds of layoffs is starting this week as the company pushes toward a stated goal of $5.5 billion in cost savings. Word emerged Monday evening of a number of exec departures across the company’s general entertainment operations.

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Former CEO Bob Chapek at one time talked up the metaverse as a significant growth opportunity for Disney, not only in the theme park unit he once ran but across its other divisions. The metaverse has captivated a number of companies eager to be early on the next wave of change, including Facebook parent Meta Platforms, which changed its corporate identity to reflect its new focus. As yet, most investments in metaverse technology have not shown profits, however.

Bob Iger, who both preceded Chapek and then succeeded him last November, has made a point of undoing certain Chapek initiatives, principally the former corporate structure with a centralized distribution operation. Iger doesn’t lack enthusiasm about technology. The exec has described his connection with late Apple chief Steve Jobs as one of the most important relationships of his personal and professional life. He also served on Apple’s board of directors, having engineered the acquisition of Pixar and also brokered a game-changing TV and movie streaming deal with the tech giant during his prior stint as CEO.

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