While Iger’s new comments on Netflix licensing seem harsh, they represent a softening of his position. In January 2022, before returning as CEO, Iger told The New York Times that licensing Disney content to Netflix was akin to “selling nuclear weapons technology to a third-world country.” In the latest investor call, though, he was clear that only “core brands” are off the table for such arrangements.
Disney’s streaming efforts with Disney+, which launched in November 2019, have been a mixed bag. Former CEO Bob Chapek was bullish on streaming, ramping up production across Disney’s brands to produce content for the fledgling platform. MCU and Star Wars series, among other brands, proliferated under his tenure. But achieving profitability has been an uphill battle for Disney as well as other entertainment companies. Streaming platforms generate the bulk of revenue through subscriptions, and that market has hit a ceiling, leading Disney and other studios to reevaluate their approaches.
Disney finds itself in ownership of more content than ever before, and several of those brands led the company to dominance during the 2010s. Brands like Star Wars and Marvel proved to be money printers, while Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2019 means that “Family Guy” now lives alongside Mickey Mouse under its umbrella. Additionally, Disney is a majority owner of Hulu. Together, these factors should have allowed it to ride roughshod over the streaming market, but its streaming division has lost a staggering $10 billion since Disney+ launched.