Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger made the interview rounds on Thursday morning after his company made official its historic agreement to buy the bulk of 21st Century Fox in a $52.4 billion all-stock deal.
Iger appeared on Good Morning America on ABC (a network owned by Disney) as well as CNBC’s Squawk on the Street on Thursday morning to discuss the massive deal, which (if it is approved by regulators) will drastically alter the media and entertainment landscape. Iger crowed about “the quality of the assets” Disney is picking up in the deal, which includes Fox’s film and TV studio, along with various cable networks and regional sports networks as well as Fox’s stake in Hulu (giving Disney majority control of the streaming service). Iger also noted that Disney will also expand its international footprint through the deal, thanks to Fox’s media assets in Europe and Asia, including European pay-TV giant Sky TV (Fox is in the process of buying the portion of Sky TV it does not already own).
“We’re getting high-quality content, we’re getting global reach, we’re getting access to new technologies, and we’re also getting great talent,” Iger told CNBC.
To that last point, Iger also talked in both interviews about the prospect of working with one particular member of the Murdoch family. James Murdoch, the son of 21st Century Fox founder Rupert Murdoch and now the company’s CEO, has been floated as a potential successor to Iger at Disney after the acquisition. “James and I will be talking over the next number of months. He’s going to be integral to the integration process, and he and I will be discussing whether there is a role for him or not at our company,” Iger said on Good Morning America.
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Iger also shed some light on how the acquisition of the Fox assets will “accelerate” Disney’s planned push into the competitive streaming entertainment market, as the media giant says it will launch two separate subscription streaming services over the next two years. While Fox’s portfolio of regional sports networks undoubtedly bolsters Disney’s planned ESPN streaming service, the deal also aligns perfectly with Disney’s planned entertainment service that will compete with Netflix. “If you look at the world today, consumers are consuming far more content, entertainment experiences, than ever before,” Iger told CNBC. “Quality really matters, but so does the means of access.”
Iger went on to talk about the benefit of controlling an established streaming service like Hulu, which Disney can use to house programming from both its own portfolio and Fox’s that won’t be available on its other two planned streaming services. “Our goal on the direct-to-consumer front is the United States is to go out with essentially a family-oriented product with Disney and Pixar and Marvel and [Star Wars-creator Lucasfilm], and that’s going to launch in 2019; a sports product from ESPN in 2018; and, we’ll probably be a more adult-oriented product from Hulu and give consumers the ability to buy all three or to buy them individually,” Iger said on CNBC.
Finally, Iger also addressed his latest contract extension, also announced today, which will keep him at Disney through 2021 and would seem to preclude the rumored presidential bid he had reportedly been contemplating. Iger was adamant on CNBC that he “hadn’t made my decisions about what I was going to do when I left Disney” at the end of his previous contract, in the summer of 2019. “I believe strongly in this combination [of Disney and Fox] and knew that, if we pursued it, that it would require me staying longer, and I thought that was the right thing to do,” Iger said.