In his quarterly call with analysts, Disney CEO Bob Iger said the board is looking for a potential successor following the recent departure of former heir apparent Tom Staggs — but left room for interpretation that he might remain past the June 2018 expiration of his current contract.
Iger says he doesn’t “currently” plan to extend his tenure, including a qualifier that anyone who follows politics recognizes as a potential opening for things to change.
Iger called Staggs “a valued colleague and a friend,” adding he’s “sorry about what came to pass.” But he has “nothing to add” about the COO’s decision to leave. The CEO added that the board is “actively engaged in the succession process and has been actually for some time,” and has “ample time” to find someone to follow Iger “under timing and circumstances that will be just fine for the company.”
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On other matters, Iger endorsed the plan by Hulu — which is co-owned by Disney, Fox, and Comcast — to create a live streaming service. The operation is “looking at a best-of-cable approach” with fewer channels than a conventional pay TV expanded basic bundle, but more than Dish Network’s $20 a month Sling TV.
He doesn’t fear that a new Hulu service will antagonize cable and satellite distributors who might see it as a competitor. Besides, “there are a number of our current distribution partners [who are] in the content ownership and creation business” — notably Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal.
“We don’t think there’ll be any negative impact whatsoever to us going into the business of distributing our channels.”
Disney provides networks including ESPN to Sling’s initial service, which only streams to one device at a time — but not to a a new one that provides multiple streams. That wasn’t due to fear of competition with Hulu.
Disney and Dish were “unable to conclude an agreement right away” on the multi-stream service, Iger says. But he’s “engaged in discussions” with Dish. “We’re looking for multiple opportunities to distribute our product.”
Indeed, Iger says he’s talking to “a number of entities — some current distributors coming forward with new packages and some completely new distributors” who want ESPN and other Disney channels. “We like the status of our talks with them, and the trend.”
Like other Big Media chiefs, Iger is optimistic about the upcoming TV upfront ad sales market which he described as likely to be “robust” and “strong.”
For ABC specifically, “I’ve seen all the pilots. I like what I see. I like the marketplace. Given the ownership of programming, and many of the shows are ours, I feel good about the prospects for that business.”
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