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Disney CEO Admits the Truth About His Return to the Company at Employee Town Hall

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A year ago, upon resuming leadership of The Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger was cognizant of the severe challenges that awaited him.

He simply failed to anticipate that there would be such a large number of them.

“I knew that there were a myriad of challenges … I must say there were many more of them than I expected,” he told ABC News’ David Muir at a company town hall meeting Tuesday, according to The Wall Street Journal (behind a paywall).

It is worth noting that ABC is under the ownership of The Walt Disney Company’s Disney Entertainment division. Iger expressed that he was still uncertain about one aspect of this division, namely its news operation.

Iger, as reported by the Journal, expressed uncertainty regarding the requirements of the contemporary media industry for a conventional media organization.

Despite reducing staffing levels in the news company, “I’m a believer in the future of news,” Iger said, according to the outlet.

Prior statements made by Iger were construed by some as indications that he was contemplating the sale of Disney’s more substantial properties, such as ABC, Disney Channel, ESPN, and others.

However, during the town hall, he downplayed those earlier remarks, stating that they amounted to little more than “thinking out loud.”

“I did not think everyone would run with a story that everything is being sold, which is not the case,” he told the company, adding that no decisions regarding potential asset sales had been made, although company leadership was evaluating the value of its various businesses.

Undoubtedly, Disney’s most prominent challenge in recent times has been the lackluster performance of its theatrical releases, given that the corporation is primarily recognized for its amusement parks and motion pictures. “[N]othing is more powerful than movies” in informing investor opinions, Iger said.

Additionally, he acknowledged that company executives may experience a sense of elation when Disney films achieve commercial success.

Iger recently declared an investment of $60 billion in the theme park division of the company. According to The Journal, Iger devoted a significant portion of his time during the town hall deliberating on the rationale that underpinned that decision.

“This is a business where you spend to succeed,” he said, although he did not, apparently explain how that made the theme park and resort side of Disney’s portfolio any different than other businesses, all of which generally require periodic investment and re-investment.

ESPN Chief Jimmy Pitaro, who joined Iger on stage at the event, said that the network planned to launch a streaming service for consumers in either 2024 or the following year, “at the latest.”

The cable network has been looking to partner with “sports leagues and tech companies,” the Journal reported, though Iger said such partnerships weren’t necessarily required for the network to continue to grow.

“We could go it alone,” Iger said. “We are fully prepared to do that.”

But, he admitted, “It would be a little more challenging if we did.”

Although he did not explicitly state it, Iger is likely anticipating a solution that is not more difficult than the current one. He appears to be preoccupied with a multitude of challenges at this moment.

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