In a shocking announcement, Disney has announced that Bob Chapek is no longer the CEO of the company, and they’ve brought back in Bob Iger, who ran the company as CEO from 2005 to 2020.

Over the past few years, Bob Chapek has been a strong supporter of Disney and has heavily invested in making sure there was content to enjoy, especially with regards to general entertainment. He was behind the inclusion of the Star brand internationally, which sees content from 20th Century Studios, FX and ABC available on Disney+ around the world, all of which strongly impacted on the growth of the platform globally.

While many Disney fans are excited about the return of Bob Iger, since many blame Chapek for everything that’s wrong with the company right now.  There is little doubt that Bob Chapek was handed a bad card to begin with, as within days of taking over, the pandemic took hold. But for Disney+, the return of Bob Iger, might result in significant big changes.

Disney+ is one of Bob Iger’s biggest projects, he developed the idea years before it launched in 2019, as he believed that selling content to platforms like Netflix was arming the competition, and with over 160 million subscribers worldwide, Disney+ has proven to be a big win.

However, Disney+ has been losing billions of dollars a year ever since it launched, and the projections are that by 2024, Disney+ will be profitable, since it will be available in more homes around the world, prices will have increased, and with the upcoming ad-supported tier, Disney+ would finally make the company money.

More General Entertainment?

When Disney+ launched, Bob Iger was very clear that he wanted the streaming service to be family-friendly, with no mature content.  There was also a plan to launch Hulu internationally, which would cover all of Disney’s mature studio content from FX, 20th Century Studios and ABC.

But in the years since Bob Chapek took over, Disney+ has continued to mature, with the launch of the Star brand internationally, bringing all of Disney’s content into one app across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Canada, Asia and the Pacific.   While in Latin America, Disney launched Star+, which is a hybrid between Hulu and ESPN+, which has drawn lots of complaints from Latin American Disney fans, who want just a single platform.

Some fans have already started to question what might happen to Disney+, will it go back to being family-friendly content, and whether the idea of merging Hulu and Disney+ together might be long gone with Bob Iger in charge.  Just prior to Bob Iger leaving Disney in late 2021, he spoke with CNBC about the addition of general entertainment onto Disney+, saying:

I think Disney Plus needs more volume, and there probably needs to be more dimensionality, meaning, basically, more programming or more content for more people, different demographics. But, Bob Chapek is aware of that and is addressing those issues.

Maybe Bob Iger was just supporting Bob Chapek, but in the years since Disney+ launched, the world has changed drastically.  People aren’t willing to subscribe to lots of different streaming platforms, and it’s only going to get worse as the recession kicks in.


Removing Star from Disney+ around the world and making Star+or Hulu, a global platform for sports and general entertainment, is going to be a tough sell in almost a hundred countries around the world.  Taking something away and charging extra for it, is never easy, and we saw how people have reacted to Genie+ being introduced in the theme parks. Taking away free Fastpasses to get onto attractions quicker and charging for them, hasn’t been popular, but it was profitable.

In Bob Iger’s return memo to cast members, he instantly calls out the work of the general entertainment side of the company

When I look at the creative success of our teams across our Studios, Disney General Entertainment, ESPN and International, the rapid growth of our streaming services, the phenomenal reimagining and rebound of our Parks, the continued great work of ABC News, and so many other achievements across our businesses, I am in awe of your accomplishments and I am excited to embark with you on many new endeavors.

Which shows how he respects the work that has been done in recent years.


There are many fans in the United States who don’t like seeing general entertainment on Disney+, and want to keep it family-friendly, but now the door has been opened, with the arrival of Deadpool and Daredevil earlier this year, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens next.

Future Of Hulu

Under Bob Iger, Hulu is a situation that needs to be fixed.  Comcast still owns 33% of the company, and the 2024 deadline, where either Disney or Comcast, can force the other to buy out Comcast’s stake. Bob Iger is known for his acquisitions, so he might be able to get the deal with Comcast done sooner than the 2024 timeline, but we will have to see.

Disney’s strategy of offering the Disney Bundle is very different from how other streaming platforms are running, where one larger streaming service can hold content from different brands.  Bob Iger is more aware of the power of the Disney brand, but he was also the one who went out and brought Marvel, Star Wars and 20th Century Fox for a reason, because Disney needed to be more than family-friendly content to compete.

The idea of launching Hulu internationally is also difficult, as any increase in the value of Hulu will hurt Disney’s investment and with Disney+ already established internationally as the home of Disney’s content.



Longer Theatrical Windows

Bob Iger has been in the Hollywood business for decades and understands how to make money there. Back when Bob Iger was originally running Disney+, we saw films take between 6 to 9 months to arrive on Disney+ after a theatrical release.   During the pandemic, this window was lowered down to around 45 days, and while it’s unlikely that new films will arrive on Disney+ half a year after they’ve been released in cinemas, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bob Iger extends out the theatrical release window out a little more.

There’s little doubt that shorter release windows have impacted on the box office numbers of films, as people know they’ve only got to wait possibly 6 weeks until it’s on Disney+.  This isn’t necessarily going to change overnight, or even at all.   Disney+ subscribers have gotten used to quicker releases, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this window is extended to 60 or maybe even 90 days in the future, to increase box office numbers, and it would also likely please Hollywood to make theatrical releases more meaningful.


Prices + Ad-Supported Tier

Back with Disney+ launched, Bob Iger wanted to make sure the streaming service was affordable, and that was a huge success. Since it was priced so low, it was able to obtain a large number of subscribers instantly.  With a huge collection of classic films and shows, plus new originals like “The Mandalorian”, the content pulled in people easily.

Next month, Disney+ is getting a big price rise, going up $3 a month to $10.99 in the United States, and the ad-supported tier will be launching at the same time.  I fully expect to see this price rise continue, because Disney+ still needs to make a profit and the stock market wouldn’t take to kindly to being told Disney+ is going to losing money for longer than expected.  While many fans might be thinking Bob Iger might cancel the plan to launch an ad-supported, it’s unlikely because Disney+ needs the money, advertisers have already been lined up for Disney+, and Iger has been in the television business for decades, understanding how advertising works perfectly.


More Vault?

One of the biggest problems with Disney+, under the Bob Chapek era, has been the lack of library content being added onto Disney+.  We’ve seen only a few well-known series like “The Muppets Show” and “Bear In The Big Blue House”, but on a month-to-month basis, we haven’t seen much commitment to diving into the vault.  There are lots of costs involved in bringing back old content, music licenses, restoring and residual payments to creators and cast.  But Bob Iger understands the history of the Disney company much more than Bob Chapek, so this could be another area within Disney+ which might improve.

With Disney’s 100th anniversary starting in just a few weeks, Bob Iger is hopefully going to lean in on this much more.


Changes

Ultimately, Disney+ is one of the creations of Bob Iger, his creative wisdom saw how the media landscape was changing and embraced going all in on streaming.  Disney+ is one of the most successful streaming platforms because of Iger’s vision.  Is it going to go through some changes in the coming weeks, months and years?  Very likely.  Management changes and a focus on how to fix the Hulu situation, are bound to happen.  But Bob Iger does have much more creative vision than Bob Chapek, so I have faith, that Disney+ will continue to become even stronger in the future, with a CEO who doesn’t make as many PR missteps as we saw with the release of “Black Widow” on Disney+ Premium Access, mishandling of the “Don’t Say Bill”, talking about the Metaverse and many other blunders, whenever he spoke in public.  Something, Bob Iger rarely has problems with.

Disney+ is Bob Iger’s baby, and maybe we might see some more investment in the platform, as there haven’t been too many changes to the overall app’s interface since it launched 3 years ago.    Bob Iger’s return is ultimately, going to help Disney in the long run, as Bob Chapek’s management style just wasn’t a fit with Disney fans, it got the company through a pandemic, but with no vision for the future, Disney’s stock just kept sliding and eventually, the board of directors had no faith in him.  Now Bob Iger is back to fix those mistakes and move the company forward, possibly focusing more on the magic of Disney, than the dollar.


What do you think of the future of Disney+ under Bob Iger?





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Roger Palmer

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. Email: Roger@WhatsOnDisneyPlus.com Twitter: Twitter.com/RogPalmerUK Facebook: Facebook.com/rogpalmeruk

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