During his appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” The Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger commented on the ongoing writers strike and highly likely actors strike, saying the demands of those involved are “not realistic.”
Bob Iger on Writers & Actors Union Strikes
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has been on strike for over two months after negotiations with various studios and streaming platforms regarding royalties and residual payments failed. The ongoing strike has led to film delays. Now, actors union SAG-AFTRA is voting to go on strike as well, which seems highly likely as the existing contract between the union and industry leaders has now expired. SAG-AFTRA’s Negotiating Committee is unanimously recommending a strike, too. This group has not gone on strike in over forty years and both unions have not been on strike at the same time since 1960.
Iger spoke with David Faber from the Sun Valley Conference in Idaho, saying of the labor actions: “It’s very disturbing to me.”
“We’ve talked about disruptive forces on this business and all the challenges we’re facing, the recovery from COVID which is ongoing, it’s not completely back,” Iger continued. “This is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption.”
I understand any labor organization’s desire to work on behalf of its members to get the most compensation and be compensated fairly based on the value that they deliver. We managed, as an industry, to negotiate a very good deal with the directors guild that reflects the value that the directors contribute to this great business. We wanted to do the same thing with the writers, and we’d like to do the same thing with the actors. There’s a level of expectation that they have, that is just not realistic. And they are adding to the set of the challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.
He added, “It will have a very, very damaging effect on the whole business, and unfortunately, there’s huge collateral damage in the industry to people who are supportive services, and I could go on and on. It will affect the economy of different regions, even, because of the sheer size of the business. It’s a shame, it is really a shame.”
With SAG-AFTRA potentially striking this week, the “Haunted Mansion” premiere at Disneyland Resort may go on without actors, potentially becoming just a fan event or including crew members such as director Justin Simien.
More from Bob Iger
Disney and Iger announced on Wednesday that he has extended his CEO contract through December 2026. When he returned as CEO in November 2022, stepping out of retirement to replace the fired Bob Chapek, he signed a contract for only two years, with the intention of finding a replacement.
In Thursday’s same CNBC interview, Iger said of his return, “I would say that in some cases, the challenges are greater than I had anticipated.”
While a lot of work has been accomplished in the seven or so months that I’ve been back, the board believed and I agreed with them that there was a lot more work to do, and the timetable that we had initially established — which was two years — seemed like it was putting an undue pressure on us, even though we’re getting at the work really quickly, but to accomplish everything we want to accomplish.
Iger also addressed the ongoing problems with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, saying, “our goal is to continue to tell wonderful stories and have a positive impact on the world.”
Talking about other segments of The Walt Disney Company, Iger agreed with Faber that ABC and its local stations “may not be core” to the company. Faber speculated about a possible sale and Iger just said, “We have to be open-minded and objective about the future of those businesses.”
“There’s clearly creativity and content that they created at its core to Disney,” he added, “but the distribution model, the business model that forms the underpinning of that business and that has delivered great profits over the years, is definitely broken.”
Iger additionally said Disney has “had conversations” with potential ESPN partners, still highlighting they “want to stay in the sports business.”
Whether it’s content value, whether it’s distribution value, whether it’s capital, whether it just helps the risk of the business some extent, but that wouldn’t be the primary driver. But if they come to the table with value that enables ESPN to make a transition to its direct-to-consumer offering, then we’re gonna be very open-minded about that.
Regarding Marvel Studios, Pixar, and streaming, Iger admitted Disney made some mistakes.
I think in our in our zeal to grow our content significantly to serve mostly our streaming offerings, we ended up taxing our people way beyond, in terms of their time and their focus, way beyond where they had been. Marvel’s a great example of that. So they had not been in the TV business at any significant level. Not only did they increase their movie output, but they ended up making a number of television series, and frankly, it diluted focus and attention. And I think you’re seeing that is, I think. more of the cause than anything else.
Iger agreed releasing three Pixar films in a row on Disney+ “created an expectation” among consumers that the films would be readily and swiftly available online, removing a sense of urgency to see Pixar projects in cinemas.
“I think you’d have to agree that there was some creative misses, as well,” he said.