Direct-to-consumer products such as Disney+ and Hulu are the “most important” to the Mouse House’s new CEO, Bob Chapek.
Speaking to Comcast-owned CNBC, Chapek was asked about the trends of cord-cutting and streaming, which has led to the Mouse House launching Disney+ worldwide.
The CEO responded by pointing towards the demands of the consumer, explaining that the company’s strategy is more focused towards creating a “one-on-one relationship with the customer without necessarily having a lot of middlemen in between.”
News that Chapek, who previously ran the company’s parks and products division, would replace Bob Iger took the industry by surprise earlier this week, sending Disney’s shares 2% down in after-hours trading.
Iger has been chief executive since 2005, establishing Disney’s place as the pre-eminent Hollywood studio through its acquisitions of 21st Century Fox, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. He also launched the Disney+ streaming channel late last year.
In the interview, Chapek was sat alongside now executive chairman Bob Iger, very much framing himself as a continuity figure for the company and in contrast to Iger, who replaced an ousted Michael Eisner 15 years ago.
Chapek admitted he has “huge shoes to fill” and described Iger’s legacy as “profound,” before adding: “I think my role is now to take the strategic pillars that [Iger’s] so well established over the last 15 years, work on those and implement those in the marketplace – most importantly our direct-to-consumer initiatives.”
He added that the company also needs to “look around the corner for what disruption is going on in the marketplace that would necessitate a fresh look at those things.”
Though Iger will remain with the company until the end of 2021, he asserted that there will not be any confusion around responsibilities, with Chapek handling the day-to-day business and Iger focusing solely on creative efforts.
Iger said that Chapek will be “at his side” for “any of the big creative decisions that need to be made” and that the transition process will enable the new CEO to “learn as much as possible.”
Chapek also downplayed any lasting effect of the spread of Coronavirus, which has indefinitely shuttered its theme parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai (Disney previously estimated that the parks would be shut for two months, resulting in a $175m loss). He said that “while this is certainly a bump in the road,” Disney will “come through this challenge like we’ve come through every other challenge we’ve had.”
Lastly, Iger put paid to any speculation that he may extend his contract beyond 2021. “I’ve been at the company for 45 years. I was in the CEO job for 15 years and COO and president for five,” Iger said. “It’s been a fun run and I’m looking forward to that run ending – but I still have a job to do.”