In April, Disney will be hosting its annual shareholder’s meeting and this year; the company is currently in the process of trying to fend off two activist investor groups, one by Nelson Peltz’s Trian Group and another by Blackwells Capital.
Both investment groups are looking to get seats on the board of directors by asking shareholders to vote for them in the proxy fight. Disney has been contacting shareholders, asking them to nominate their selected 12 nominees and to reject the nominations of both Trian and Blackwell.
Recently, Nelson Peltz has shared his vision for the streaming side of the business by suggesting Disney just bundle ESPN with Netflix, while Blackwell Captial has laid out its plan for Disney’s streaming business, integrating Disney+, Hulu and ESPN into one.
One of Blackwell Captials’ nominees is Jessica Schell, who has over twenty years of experience working in Hollywood, having worked at Warner Brothers, Universal, and Disney. She previously ran the home entertainment division at Warner Brothers and was also an original member of the NBC Universal management team that launched Hulu.
Blackwell has put out a statement showcasing why Disney shareholders should vote for them and also highlighted their suggestions on how to improve Disney’s streaming services.
Ms. Schell’s expertise will enable her to contribute insight in the Boardroom on day one. We believe there is no better suited person for the rest of the Board and management to leverage as Disney navigates the complex issues of integrating Hulu and Disney+ and the unbundling and transitioning of ESPN to a DTC service, and doubles down on producing extraordinary content for current and future franchises that has served as the creative engine driving all of Disney’s businesses.
Making the right choices about how to best use premium content to balance profitability, fan engagement, franchise strength and streaming subscriber acquisition and retention are skills that fall squarely in Ms. Schell’s wheelhouse, and she intends to deliver for Disney shareholders. We firmly believe Ms. Schell’s contributions as a director will help Disney attain Netflix like growth rates on subscribers and pricing for Disney+ based on her expertise, with meaningful upside to be unlocked by integrating Disney +, Hulu, and ESPN+.
Blackwell even released a chart showcasing how, by 2027, their plans to have Disney+, with Hulu and ESPN content included, will be able to compete with Netflix in terms of global subscribers.
With the recent buyout of Comcast’s stake in Hulu, we’ve seen Disney begin to take steps to integrate Hulu into Disney+, with the current beta of Hulu On Disney+ already in place, with a full launch in March 2024. Disney is also planning on launching a full version of ESPN direct to consumers, rather than the current offering of ESPN+.
Other suggestions from the Blackwell Investment company include spinning off their real-estate and betting businesses, plus investing more in physical, spatial computing and AI-driven experiences.
It’s very easy to see that Blackwell understands that Disney needs to combine its streaming services in order to compete with Netflix on a global level. No doubt Disney already has plans to do so, but due to the Hulu deal only recently being resolved, we’ve not heard too much about their plans. Hopefully, that will change soon.
Disney doesn’t want any outside interference from activist investors, either from Nelson Peltz or the Blackwell Investor group, but at least one of the Blackwell’s appointed nominees does at least understand the entertainment business.
Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.