How does Bob Iger fix streaming? That’s the main question that people I’ve talked to in Hollywood want answered, following his re-emergence at Disney and the abrupt defenestration of Bob Chapek as C.E.O. That query is typically followed by a pause and then an important supplementary question: What, exactly, is wrong with Disney streaming, anyway?
Political blunders aside, Chapek was ousted largely on account of the board’s lack of confidence in his ability to turn around Disney’s streaming business after it posted a loss of $1.5 billion in the fourth quarter. And yet Chapek was largely following the expensive growth playbook that his predecessor set in motion. Remember, it was Iger who launched Disney+ in 2019 and acquired control of Hulu while purchasing most of 21st Century Fox. It was Iger who bought BAMTech, the streaming tech company, which got this whole ball rolling.
From a top-line subscription perspective, the Disney playbook appeared to be working just fine. The company has more than 164 million Disney+ subscribers—yes, they’re triple-counting bundle subscriptions in that number—and has also enjoyed significant year-over-year growth on both ESPN+ and Hulu. Meanwhile, Disney+ has become one of a select few destination platforms thanks to its mega-popular franchises. Disney also boasts the largest share of audience demand of the major companies operating in streaming, according to Parrot Analytics, where I work as director of strategy; Hulu has the largest on-platform demand share (when looking at the entire catalog) in the U.S., and Disney+ has the third highest demand share for originals.