Bob Iger’s top priority before he steps down in two years: push Disney into the streaming era. And he’s doing it in a massive way, by putting its “Star Wars” and Marvel movies exclusively on Disney’s forthcoming over-the-top streaming service when it launches in 2019.
Chairman and CEO Bob Iger announced plenty of details about the forthcoming product at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2017 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference conference in Beverly Hills on Thursday. Not only will some of the most popular franchises in films migrate to the service, but the Mouse House will produce plenty of new original content for it as well.
“The studio will produce four to five original films exclusively for the app,” Iger said. “The studio library will be available on app. That will be 400-500 films. On the TV side, we’re going to create four to five Disney-branded TV series for the app. And we’re going to produce three to four television movies that are Disney-branded.”
“[It’s a] treasure trove of high-quality branded content for the app,” he added.
Iger also shared some new information about the company’s ESPN-branded streaming service, which will launch next year, and will have 10,000 new sporting events in its first 12 months. He went on to float the possibility of buying individual games or leagues a la carte, but in the more distant future.
Despite its robust film and theme parks business, Disney’s stock has struggled due to investor concerns about subscriber losses at its media companies, including ESPN, which make up the biggest share of its profits. Iger said that a summer discussion with division leaders made him decide that “accelerating our controlling position in BAMTech (Disney’s video streaming technology company) would be the smartest thing we could do to contend with the disruptive forces in the media space.” Iger added that BAMTech can currently produce 10 million simultaneous streams.
However, Iger said traditional pay-TV distributors will continue to make up the bulk of its media revenue. But with Disney’s brand strength, he decided it was time to go directly to the people.
“Of all the brands that exist in media, there are very few you can see that can exist today as a direct-to-consumer brand,” Iger said. “ESPN and Disney are two of them.”
And even though this summer produced the worst box office in more than a decade, Iger said that wasn’t a huge concern for him. Disney films weren’t part of the string of bombs that littered July and August, and he said the studio’s movies are much more suited to paying for that big screen experience than the products of some more prolific movie houses.
“We’re not looking for quantity, we’re looking for quality,” Iger said. “And it’s working.”
He also shot down Disney’s interest in premium video-on-demand, but said he did foresee a new window opening up, which he called “a big experiment.”
“It will happen,” Iger said. “Not for us.”