Disney chief sidesteps Netflix speculation, weighs Trump impact

Bob Iger

Bob Iger

The Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger has sidestepped speculation around a potential move for SVOD giant Netflix, but admitted direct-to-consumer models were creating “really interesting opportunities”.

Disney was linked to a multi-billion dollar deal for Netflix last month, leading to intense speculation about a takeover.

Questioned directly about interest in Netflix and social media platform Twitter on an investors call yesterday, Iger declined to comment. However, he noted a recent US$1 billion investment in on-demand technology company BAM was an indication of increased business in the D2C space.

“Well, obviously we’re not going to get specific about that [Netflix link], but we think there’s some really interesting opportunities, given what’s going on from a technological perspective, to both improve our businesses and also improve the consumer experience by selling directly to consumers,” he said.

“The purchase of BAM was designed just to do just that. Whether there will be more or not, I can’t really say, except to say that we’re obviously interested in the opportunity that exist today to have more direct relationship with the consumer.”

Elsewhere on the call, Iger declined to provide new detail on his retirement plan upon the end of his current contract in 2018.

COO Thomas Stagg was expected to replace him, but he threw succession plans into doubt when he exited earlier this year.

“The board has discussed succession at every meeting that the board has had in the last few years,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s necessarily a need for the board to provide any more details publicly about the process, except to say the process is ongoing, it’s robust, and we’re all confident that it’s going to result in the board choosing not only the right candidate, but the right candidate on a timely basis.

Iger also said political attempts at a smooth transition from incumbent president Barack Obama to Donald Trump this week were encouraging, and that Disney had already prepared a bust of the Republican president-elect to go in the Hall of the Presidents at Disney World.

Hollywood is currently assessing how Trump will treat the US entertainment business when he becomes president next year. He has been hugely critical of the media, which he accused of systematically attempting to make him lose the American election to Democrat Hilary Clinton.

“It’s really too early to speculate about what the changes in Washington are going to mean for our business or for businesses,” said Iger. “We have, though, been exhorting Washington both the executive and the legislative branches to take a look at the current tax policy of the United States, particularly the corporate tax rate, and to close more loopholes but lower the corporate tax rate.

“We are no longer competitive with the rest of the world in that regard and that must be addressed. It’s possible that, given what’s gone on this week, that that’s likely to be addressed sooner rather than later. That’s obviously a good thing.”

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