Bob Iger Is ‘Bullish’ on Disney+ but ‘We Were Off’ on Pricing Strategy and Needed to Rationalize Costs

Bob Iger, just over three months back as CEO of Disney, discussed major organizational changes he’s made at the company — and his optimism about making streaming, particularly Disney+, a profitable piece of the empire.

“I’m generally bullish on streaming as a great consumer proposition, as a really robust platform to deliver high-quality content,” Iger said, speaking Thursday at the 2023 Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in San Francisco. But “we have to better rationalize our costs” and “obviously we have to attract more subs.”

In addition, he said, “In our zeal to grow global subs, I think we were off in terms of our pricing strategy, and we’re starting to learn more about it.” Iger also said Disney overall had a “disconnect” between what it was spending on content and how it was monetizing that — and that the company needs to become “more judicious” about content investment.

Iger said the company is continuing to examine whether Disney will seek to buy out Comcast’s 33% stake in Hulu or whether it will look to exit the streamer. “We are really studying the business very, very carefully,” he said. He called Hulu “a solid platform” that’s also a very attractive platform for advertisers, “but the environment is very, very tricky right now… and we want to understand where it could go.”

Iger, previously CEO from 2005-20, returned as the Mouse House’s interim chief executive after the ouster of Bob Chapek last November. At the Morgan Stanley conference, said “succession is pretty much at the top of the list between me and the board.”

“My goal is essentially to leave here in two years with a trajectory… that is very optimistic and positive,” Iger said.

In one of Iger’s biggest moves since coming back, last month Disney said it would eliminate 7,000 jobs in a mass layoff coming as part of an effort to slash $5.5 billion in costs. He also reorganized the company into three core business segments — Disney Entertainment, headed by co-chairs Dana Walden and Alan Bergman; ESPN, led by Jimmy Pitaro; Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, led by Josh D’Amaro — dismantling the former Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution (DMED) division. The reorg, Iger said in a statement, was to “return creativity to the center of the company.”

Iger previously has underscored that the media conglomerate is focused on streaming profitability — signaling a pullback from Chapek’s heavy investment in content and his push to amass subscribers. In the last three months of 2022, Disney+ lost 2.4 million subscribers, its first decline since launching in late 2019, driven by a 3.8 million sequential decline at Disney+ Hotstar, the version of the service offered in India and parts of Southeast Asia.