Later tonight, Bob Iger will host a dinner party at his Brentwood home to say thanks and so long to friends and colleagues, one of the many stops on a farewell tour that began when he stepped down as chief executive of Disney in February 2020 and will finally end when he steps down as executive chairman and leaves the company at the end of January 2022. (Yes, Iger is staying on one month longer than Disney previously announced, per sources familiar with the timeline.)
C.E.O. Bob Chapek, who has seized the reins at Disney a little faster and more aggressively than Iger may have liked, will also be in attendance, along with his direct reports. Depending on the tone and tenor of the evening, and the seating chart, it’s conceivable that the conversation could turn to the question currently transfixing Chapek and his colleagues: how to grow Disney+. The streamer, which had a robust launch and rapid rise thanks to its inescapable appeal for families and Marvel/Star Wars superfans, is now starting to plateau at around 118 million subscribers, only 72 million or so of whom are paying full freight. Forty percent of subscriptions come from Disney+ Hotstar in India, which has dragged Disney’s average revenue per subscriber down to just $4.12.
Families and superfans are an extremely loyal audience, but the slowdown suggests they’re also a limited constituency. As I noted last week, Disney executives are now in heated debate over how best to grow the streaming subscriber base. One side argues that Disney should broaden the inventory of Disney+ content to include programs targeting adults who don’t care about Iron Man or Incredibles 2. The other side believes that Disney+ is sacrosanct, and fears that mixing in too much adult-tailored content would dilute or muddy a pristine crown jewel.