“I don’t think all streamers are created equal,” Bob Iger bluntly said today at the 2022 Code Conference. “I don’t think they’ll all make it.”
“There will be haves and have nots,” the former House of Mouse boss added, predictably praising Disney+, Netflix, and the “deep pockets” of Apple and Amazon. “I’m not going to make predictions about the others, I wentger on to say, leaving the likes of HBO Max and Peacock dangling in the wind.
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If survival of the streaming fittest was on the casually attracted ex-CEO’s mind on Wednesday, so was the future of movies and liner TV – and the future is bleak from Iger’s POV.
“Linear TV and satellite is marching towards a great precipice and it will be pushed off,” the man who worked for and ostensibly controlled ABC for years asserted, prophesying a “world of hurt” coming “I can’t tell you when, but it goes away,” he added in a steady voice. In terms of the big screen, Iger praised the communal experience of going to the cinema, and pinned the movie business as far from dead, but stated it was now simply “smaller.”
“I don’t think movies ever return to the level they were at pre-pandemic,” Iger said, noting the “permanent scars” suffered since March 2020 saw most of the world shut down from Covid. “Competition, choice ..it replaces moviegoing,” Iger explained of where he believed consumers are actually at, despite the best hopes and prayers of many studio heads.
This is an “age of great anxiety,” Iger said of the industry overall, “because this is an era of great transformation.”
With that, teased as the “cashmere prince” by host Kara Swisher in her introduction, and side stepping efforts to get him to slag Warner Bros Discovery boss David Zaslav and his own Disney predecessor Michael Eisner, the relatively laid-back Iger also made it very clear that he is out of the entertainment executive game, for real. “I don’t miss my job,” 47-year Disney vet Iger added less than a year after leaving his top tier perch. “Retirement is great, I have a vastly different life than before. Much more air in my day.”
Often whispered as a candidate for electoral ambitions, Iger stated “I’m not planning to run for office ..that’s just what I said.”
Starting off his Code session with a career greatest hits and a self-described “miss” (aka Maker Studios) of his attempts to harness “the disruptive effects of digital technology,” Iger on Wednesday talked about the lessons he learned from large shelf space and “user friendly” Netflix in the early years of the last decade. “At Disney, we were the first studio to license movies to Netflix,” the ex-CEO and Chairman stated. “We had been selling nuclear weapons technology to a third world country, and they were now using it against us,” he added of the harsh realities of the deals made with Netflix and the gravitation pull towards the industry altering streamer.
Following the likes of earnest Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in the red chair, Iger’s appearance onstage at the well air conditioned Beverly Hills Hilton today comes just two days before Disney and current CEO Bob Chapek kick off the House of Mouse’s 100th anniversary at the D23 conference in Anaheim. Still a frequent presence today on the high powered Sun Valley circuit and a high ranking member of Tinseltown’s gossipy Star Chamber, Iger finally exited Disney in December 2021.
Since Iger’s prolonged retreat over the first year and a half of the pandemic, a series of stumbles at the Magic Kingdom, has repeatedly fueled the rumor mill into maximum overdrive over his opinion of successor Chapek and the relationship the duo have. For a town that thrives on tittle-tattle, the chatter has subsided in the recent weeks as Disney stock has bounced up, the company’s digital platforms are surging and the packed theme park are filling up the corporate coffers.
Well positioned on a plethora of well picked startups and boards, 71-year old Iger said today that he’s working on another book and being “entrepreneurial” right now
Speaking of entrepreneurs, Iger was followed at Code on Wednesday by one-woman industry Issa Rae.