The WarnerMedia/Discovery merger should have no effect on Disney’s business strategies, a bullish Disney CEO Bob Chapek said during a virtual question-and-answer session at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference on Monday.
Chapek said Disney is enjoying a competitive position as pandemic restrictions begin to soften, and allow the reopening of both movie theaters and theme parks hit hard in the last year. Despite the major revenue hit, Chapek pointed to the success of its streaming service Disney+ hitting 100 million subscribers worldwide. “We are pretty happy with the template that we have, the strategy that we have, and we don’t think this really changes much at all,” the executive said.
Chapek added that he expects Disney to follow through on previously announced plans to eventually have a new feature film or TV debut on Disney+ each week by “2022 or 2023.”
And on the eve of the studio’s “Cruella” landing in theaters and as a premium streaming offering this Friday, Chapek defended the company’s COVID-era experimentation with theatrical and streaming models, including day-and-date theatrical/streaming premieres and streaming only releases. “One of the things we learned is, flexibility is good,” Chapek said.
As he has said in the past, Chapek reiterated that the direct-to-consumer market has been accelerated by the pandemic but “it was going to happen anyway… I think we are trying to offer consumers more choice, as they gain confidence in how and when they want to return to theaters.”
Chapek said he is confident that consumers will flock to Disney’s upcoming summer blockbusters despite dramatically shortened release windows that will allow some films to stream 45 days after their theatrical debut, saying that fans of a high-profile film like Marvel’s “Black Widow” are not going to skip going to the movie in a theater to wait four to six weeks for the movie to come to Disney+.
Even though Disney wanted to give theatrical exhibition “a chance” this summer, he said unpredictable post-pandemic behavior means “We couldn’t put all of our eggs in the theatrical exhibition basket. We are very confident we made the right call there.”
Chapek devoted much of the Q&A to the gradual re-opening of its U.S. and global theme parks, including Disneyland Paris, opening on June 17, and said he is looking forward to the symbiosis between park attendance and movie-going that tends to occur as theme park customers gain a hands-on look at some of Disney’s franchises.
As Disney Co. celebrates its 100th birthday “there’s a lot that I’m excited about, ” Chapek said. “We continue to reach new audiences, the future for us is really bright…the second 100 years will be as successful as the first 100 years, and if that’s not a call for optimism, nothing is.”