Disney explores ABC, FX, Nat Geo future as CEO Bob Iger admits linear TV ‘definitely broken’

The Bear is from Disney’s FX

Disney CEO Bob Iger is exploring the future of its linear TV assets such as ABC, FX and Nat Geo, admitting that they “may not be core” to the business.

Iger, who signed a new two-year deal at the Mouse House earlier this week, told CNBC during an interview at the Sun Valley media conference that having replaced Bob Chapek last year, he found a company “facing a lot of challenges, some of them self inflicted.”

Disney has since restructured and made three major waves of cuts, slicing 7,000 jobs and $3bn from its content spending, but Iger said the main focus now is on addressing the company’s linear TV business, with ABC, FX and Nat Geo.

Iger said that Disney is being “open-minded and strategic about the future of those businesses”, with private equity firms – some of which are already invested in local linear operations in the US – providing one potential group of buyers.

“They may not be core to Disney. There is clearly creativity and content they create that is core to Disney, but the distribution model and the business model that forms the underpinning of that business – and that has delivered great profits over the years – is definitely broken.

LR: Bob Iger & Bob Chapek

“We have to call it like it is. That’s part of the transformative work that we’re doing.”

‘Disruptive forces’

Iger picked out sports network ESPN as a different case that continues to perform, but added that he has been surprised by the speed of the decline of linear over recent years.

“When I came back one of the things I discovered was that the disruptive forces that had been preying on [the linear] business were greater than I had thought.

“It was eye opening and it is something we have to come to grips with. And we have to come to grips with it now.”

The CEO’s comments came a day after it emerged Disney is exploring the future of its Indian TV and streaming business, with a sale or the addition of a joint-venture partner among options being considered.

Iger also weighed in on the US writers’ and actors’ strike, describing their respective demands as “adding to the challenges this business is already facing”.

He said the Writers Guild of America and actors’ union SAG-AFTRA were not being realistic and added that the current post-pandemic years are “the worst time to be adding to that disruption”.

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