Iger Expectations & the ESPN X Factor

Disney CEO Bob Iger
What is Bob Iger cooking up for his semi-triumphant return to the Magic Kingdom? Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As a raucous year in the media industry winds to a close, Puck’s streaming analytics expert Julia Alexander sat down with star media reporter Dylan Byers to exchange notes on the biggest plot lines, industrial transformations, and M&A cliffhangers across Hollywood and Wall Street.

Dylan Byers: Happy Holidays, Julia! I was reading Puck’s second annual Guide to Mirth and Merriment this week and noted that you’re an avid whiskey drinker like me, which made me wish we were in the same city and could have this conversation over a glass of bourbon. Alas! Anyway, I wanted to catch up with you on a few of our other shared interests, most notably Hollywood and the state of the streaming industry, and take stock of where things stand before we head into the holidays and the new year.

First, Hollywood’s talking point du jour: Disney, and Bob Iger’s semi-triumphant return to the Magic Kingdom. There’s a lot of speculation that he’s come back to position the company for some grand new deal. On The Town, our partner Matt Belloni’s podcast, former ESPN chief John Skipper floated a rumor about Apple acquiring Disney. I have it on good authority that that’s not on the table right now. The regulatory climate makes it impossible, of course, and Apple doesn’t want to be in the theme parks/cruise business anyway, much less manage the inexorable decline of the linear assets. But despite the rumor mill, it seems like Iger has a lot more immediate issues facing him before he can even begin to think about M&A, and most notably when it comes to the future of Hulu and the growth of Disney+. What do you make of Iger’s current predicament, and what can we expect him to do in the D.T.C. space in the months and years ahead?