Disney head speaks out about earlier linear TV comments

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After Disney chief Bob Iger made comments that its traditional TV businesses may not be “core” to the company, he’s backtracking a bit on the statement.

Iger originally made the statement during an interview with CNBC and it sent shockwaves throughout the company and entire media industry.

Now, CNN is reporting that Iger brought up the subject during an off-site staff meeting July 18, 2023, according to sources.

During that meeting, Iger said that company’s linear TV properties that include ABC, ESPN and a variety of cable networks, are “incredibly valuable to our business,” according to CNN’s source.

He also expressed his admiration for television news in general.

According to insiders, Iger’s comments about the linear TV business was a surprise to most employees, including the thousands who work for the networks in question.

It’s worth noting that Iger’s latest comments do not specifically contradict his earlier statement, but rather attempt to focus on the value these networks bring to the business. That apparently hasn’t brought much confidence inside the company, according to CNN. At least some employees are scoffing at the notion that Iger is claiming the properties are valuable while still plotting to sell them.

ABC, ESPN, FX, National Geographic and its namesake Disney Channel — along with additional linear properties — are all part of the Disney General Entertainment Content division. Disney also owns ABC News and a handful of TV stations in major markets.

Disney, like most media companies, has seen its linear TV business shrink in recent years as more consumers adopt streaming over cable and satellite TV.

To counter that, Disney entered the direct to consumer streaming market with Disney+ in 2019.

However, these streaming businesses have proven challenging due to a variety of factors, including a plethora of streamers, consumer fatigue of monthly subscription fees and the high cost of content.

Since returning as CEO in late 2022, Iger has made it a priority to boost is streaming offerings revenue as a key point on the road to profitability.

Many major streamers, including NBCU’s Peacock and Paramount+, are losing millions — and in some cases — over $1 billion a year. The losses are so large that they can affect the overall profitability of the parent company.

Most media companies, however, see these losses as necessary in order to build their streaming offerings, especially with the role of linear TV in the future in doubt.