Bob Iger spoke at an offsite meeting with senior TV leaders and sought to calm “high anxiety” among thousands of employees after saying last week that linear television “may not be core” to Disney’s business, CNN’s Reliable Sources newsletter reported Wednesday.
The offsite was held Tuesday, according to the newsletter, citing people who attended. An individual with knowledge told TheWrap that the meeting, hosted by Disney Entertainment co-chair Dana Walden, had been planned for weeks, and that Iger had always planned to attend.
The returned CEO’s comments, made in a candid interview last week with David Faber of CNBC, “naturally set off alarm bells inside Disney General Entertainment Content, the division of the Magic Kingdom that houses its linear business and operates quintessential broadcast and cable networks such as ABC, the Disney Channel, National Geographic, and FX,” CNN reporter Oliver Darcy wrote.
People familiar with the matter told Darcy the thousands of employees “have been experiencing ‘high anxiety,’ sources noted to me, with them adding that Iger had effectively left staff ‘in the dark’ by not communicating directly them since the stunning interview. There have been no company-wide memos. No town halls. Nothing but silence since Iger jolted the organization with the news.”
Tuesday’s meeting sought to calm those nerves as Iger fielded questions submitted by the senior company leaders in attendance. Iger told the gathering that linear TV is “incredibly valuable to our business,” according to Reliable Sources.
Iger in particular rizzed up ABC News, saying he’s “ridiculously passionate” about the news business: “It’s important to this company. We need to figure out how it makes the transition into streaming. And I happen to believe we will endure. It’s too good, it’s too important, and it’s really fun,” a person familiar with his comments told Darcy.
But that didn’t seem to entirely quell the fears of some senior leaders who now believe they could be for sale, as one Disney insider told Reliable Sources that Iger’s remarks were “the usual jewel-in-the-crown stuff — except now we know that he’s selling the jewel.”
“It’s great to say he loves the jewel,” the source continued. “It’s great to say that the jewel is important. It’s great to say that the jewel is fun. But he has revealed the truth: he wants to get the highest price he can for the jewel because he can’t afford it anymore.”
Disney representatives declined to comment for this article.