On Monday, I caught up with Rich Greenfield, the Wall Street research analyst, as he was on a plane bound for Florida to attend a media industry meeting that Disney was hosting at its theme park in Orlando. Greenfield, a partner at LightShed, has been covering Disney for some 30 years: the Eisner vs. Ovitz drama, the purchase of ABC Family, Roy E. Disney’s sudden resignation, the Iger acquisition spree, the Fox debacle, etcetera.
But, I think it’s safe to say, Greenfield has never seen the company (or the entertainment industry) more discombobulated than it is these days, in the second Iger era, when seemingly “everything is on the table,” from the future of Hulu and ESPN to a potential sale of Disney’s linear assets. It’s an open question that investors, employees and corporate executives, alike, are desperately busy trying to figure out.
“Iger 1.0 was all about making major acquisitions of I.P. to transform The Walt Disney Company,” Greenfield told me, as the door to his plane was closing. “If you think about Disney, the lifeblood of Disney is I.P. creation, more so than any other media company, because that I.P. flows through their broadcast and cable networks, flows through their theme parks, their consumer products, their video games. I think Iger, in round one, was very astute at recognizing that they were deficient in that arena. And he needed to bolster that with iconic I.P. which he did through three major acquisitions,” of Pixar, Fox, and Marvel, as well as a fourth acquisition, of Lucasfilm.