It’s the season of change for The Walt Disney Company, and since it was announced that Bob Iger would be taking over as CEO and Bob Chapek would be stepping down, those changes have only continued.
We’ve gotten a glimpse into the thought processes behind the decision, what Iger should do as his first move, what changes he could bring as the newly returned CEO, and more. But one question remains: Will Bob Iger reverse Bob Chapek’s legacy?
Since Disney announced that Bob Iger would replace Bob Chapek as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, the response from fans on social media (and investors) has been largely positive. But in the midst of all the general excitement from the public surrounding the news it may make many wonder, can Iger really “bring the magic back” to Disney like so many are hoping?
Many fans blamed Chapek for the company’s ever-present price increases and changes like Genie+, and with Iger’s return people are hopeful that things might “go back to normal” — but Iger hand-picked Chapek as his successor, meaning the two might be less different than we think. Can and will Bob Iger could reverse Bob Chapek’s legacy? That is the question.
A huge part of Chapek’s focus as CEO of the Walt Disney Company was wanting to make sure that anyone could enter the theme parks on any day, and have the same experience. He shied away from putting Annual Passholders and loyal fans on a pedestal, instead choosing to focus on the regular theme park guest (which are the people, coincidentally, who typically spend more money in the parks.)
During Disney’s most recent earnings call, then-CEO Chapek shared that demand for the parks has been consistently strong, as evidenced by the limited availability on the Disney park pass reservation calendar. However, with a potential recession looming, Disney may have to rely on Annual Passholders to fill the parks as they’re less likely to give up their trips. Iger could use this as a way to shift the focus back onto loyal fans and Annual Passholders.
It’s important to keep in mind that overall, the Disney parks are wildly profitable — that division reported a 26% increase in revenue over this time last year. Iger recently commented that he had not yet used the Park Pass Reservation System, and shared that he wanted to hear from Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Josh D’Amaro before commenting further.
Park passes could be here to stay, but whether or not Iger will choose to put an emphasis on “the magic” and loyal fans and passholders is still unclear. Price increases happened under Iger as they have with every Disney CEO, and chances are that part of the business won’t change anytime soon.
ESPN and Sports Betting
Chapek took Disney’s Media and Entertainment division, ran with it, and then some. While Disney+ technically launched while Iger was still CEO (the last time), its subscriber count grew under Chapek, and with Hulu and ESPN part of the Disney streaming family, more was still on the horizon — mainly, sports betting.
During a 2021 earnings call, former CEO Chapek said that Disney was “moving toward a greater presence in online sports betting” and that leadership within the company believed that “sports betting is a very significant opportunity for the company.”
Chapek later confirmed several times that the company was still interested in sports betting, sharing, “There are several long-term initiatives that we’re looking at that really make [keeping ESPN] a great proposition to sort of counter some of the headwinds that we have from a cable universe shrinkage standpoint, but sports betting is certainly one of those propositions.”
When many investors thought that Disney should sell ESPN, the company decided to keep the brand. In fact, according to Deadline, “Disney, along with Paramount Global, NBCUniversal, Fox, and Amazon, signed up for a record-smashing $110 billion rights deal for NFL games over the next 11 years.”
Not only that, but Disney is reportedly nearing a deal with DraftKings Inc., one of the largest online sports betting services in the world. Disney also already holds a stake in DraftKings after acquiring Twenty-First Century Fox’s entertainment assets in 2019.
And get this, when sports betting was effectively legalized in May 2018, then-CEO Iger commented, “I do think that there’s plenty of room, and ESPN has done some of this already and they may do more to provide information in coverage of sports…But getting into the business of gambling, I rather doubt it.”
Disney has always been known for family-friendly content, and the introduction of sports betting — or gambling, essentially — into the company might not be something Iger sees as a good fit. Chapek did indicate that others at the company supported the idea of Disney pursuing sports betting, and we haven’t heard any recent comments from Iger — so for now, we’ll have to wait and see.
With Chapek’s focus shifting toward less “traditional” Disney content like sports betting, it only makes sense that he would continue that into other non-family friendly and R-rated content as well.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal about whether or not Disney was “too woke,” Chapek commented that when parents put their kids to bed after watching a Disney movie, “they’re probably not going to tune into another animated movie. They want something for them.”
He later stated, “if the consumer base has more elasticity than we’ve traditionally had in terms of defining what’s Disney, then we probably ought to listen to our audience, which means we have more degrees of freedom than we probably thought.”
In July 2022, the first R-Rated films came to Disney+: Deadpool 1 and 2, and Logan. All Marvel movies, but it marked the beginning of a new era with Parental Controls on the streaming service. And since Disney owns Hulu — which is home to a wide variety of titles and ratings — this new era might not end anytime soon. Though whether that means Disney will begin producing more R-Rated content or whether they push more R-rated content to Disney+ remains to be seen.
For now, we haven’t heard much from Iger about the future of Disney+ content or a push for more non-family friendly entertainment, but we do know that when asked about how “woke” Disney was, the CEO recently remarked that the company is “not going to lessen our core values to make everyone happy all the time.” (Variety)
Whether it comes in the form of TV-MA and R-Rated content on Disney+ or sports betting through ESPN and DraftKings, it’s clear that Disney is dipping its toes into what once was uncharted territory for the company, and Bob Iger may not be able to change that.
Bob Iger and his decisions over the next two years truly remain to be seen. We could see him undo some of what Chapek introduced while other systems and decisions will remain in place. On the flip side of that, Iger could introduce new ideas that also change the way we interact with the Walt Disney Company. We will continue to keep you updated on the Iger transition and will let you know if and when changes are announced.
If you’re interested in learning more about Bob Iger and the recent changes within the Walt Disney Company, check out our posts below:
- Bob Iger Is Back at Disney. Here’s What Can Change (and What Won’t).
- Why Disney Replaced Bob Chapek With Bob Iger
- Celebrities React to Disney’s Decision To Bring Bob Iger Back as CEO
- Bob Iger Announces Kareem Daniel, a Lieutenant of Bob Chapek, Is Leaving Disney
- Disney CEO Bob Iger Salary REVEALED
- Bob Chapek Did “Irreparable Damage to His Ability to Lead,” Disney Board of Directors Reportedly Determined
Stay tuned to DFB for more Disney news.
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Do you think Bob Iger will reverse Bob Chapek’s legacy? Let us know in the comments!