Seems like there’s a lot of confusion, and certainly a fresh bit of outrage, around the latest Hollywood content purge, this time at Disney. That’s not surprising, I suppose, considering the streaming era taught both consumers of film and television and the people who make it to expect that everything on these services will live forever, like cockroaches and Rupert Murdoch. Now that the bottom has fallen out of these media companies, linear TV is failing faster than anticipated, and investors crave profits more than subscribers, it’s hardly a shock that the money-suck streaming services are being targeted. If Wall Street wants Disney+ to cost less, the easiest way to do that without impacting subs or engagement is to delete the old stuff nobody watches.
Still, it’s understandably hard for creators to accept that on May 26th, their art is just… vanishing. No DVDs at Target, no return to the platform after a little break, no nothing. “You work on something for years, pour your heart and soul into it, as do hundreds of other artists,” tweeted Eliza Clark, showrunner of Hulu’s Y: The Last Man, adding, “Then, it is disappeared…” Depressing, although what she’s describing is what happened to low-viewership shows for most of the history of the entertainment business. The DVD boom and then Peak TV just taught Clark—and all of us—to expect more. Our bad.
Plus, Disney C.E.O. Bob Iger and C.F.O. Christine McCarthy have told everyone for months now that this was exactly what was going to happen, all part of their increasingly frantic effort to erase $5 billion from the bottom line, including a reported $3 billion this year. What’s going on at Disney is kind of nuts. If you told me that each of the Seven Dwarfs holding up the executive building in Burbank were being auctioned off to increase free cash flow, I’d probably believe it. Nearly every division has been asked to spend less, some way less.