Bob Chapek’s Hail Mary

Bob Chapek
Disney C.E.O. Bob Chapek. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
May 12, 2022

I’m on a text chain with a couple executive friends at Disney, so the three of us decided to live-chat yesterday’s much-anticipated earnings reveal. I’ll spare you most of the dumb jokes and poop emojis; it’s safe to say it got pretty cynical, pretty fast.

When reporters started tweeting that Disney+ added 7.9 million subscribers in the second quarter, beating estimates and avoiding the dreaded Netflix loss, the messages began flying: “We’re saved!” one of them wrote, following up with that gif of Elaine from Seinfeld dancing wildly in Jerry’s apartment. “Streaming is hard,” the other wrote when I texted a trade headline noting that Disney took a $900 million hit on its direct-to-consumer efforts, triple the loss in the segment a year ago. “Pam n tommy alert!” the same friend wrote when C.E.O. Bob Chapek shouted out the Hulu hit, almost certainly the first time a piece of content featuring a talking penis was plugged on a Disney earnings call. Then, toward the end (or when the three of us started losing interest), the most biting text of all: “Dammit chapek didn’t eff up.”  

My friend was joking, but only half so. His wish, which actually mirrors what I’ve heard from others in and around the company, is that the faster the embattled Chapek shovels himself a hole inescapably deep, the faster the Disney board will remove him, the faster a new C.E.O. with content experience and media savvy can be installed, and the faster the company will begin to recover. After all, the Disney share price seemingly sinks to a new two-year low every day, down to $102 today. It was at $156 at the start of January, when Bob Iger, Chapek’s predecessor, left the board—not that anyone’s comparing the two men.