Bob Iger knew he would encounter some significant difficulties when he returned to the helm of The Walt Disney Company a year ago.
He just didn’t realize there would be so many of them.
“I knew that there were a myriad of challenges … I must say there were many more of them than I expected,” he told ABC News’ David Muir at a company town hall meeting Tuesday, according to The Wall Street Journal (behind a paywall).
ABC is owned by the Disney Entertainment division of The Walt Disney Company, it should be noted — and its news division, Iger said, was one of the puzzle pieces he was still struggling to figure out.
According to the Journal, Iger said he was uncertain about what today’s media industry needed from a mainstream media outlet.
Despite reducing staffing levels in the news company, “I’m a believer in the future of news,” Iger said, according to the outlet.
Iger had earlier made statements that some understood to mean that he was considering the sale of some of Disney’s larger properties, potentially including ABC, Disney Channel, ESPN or others.
He downplayed those earlier comments during the townhall, however, saying that the comments were not much more than “think[ing] out loud.”
“I did not think everyone would run with a story that everything is being sold, which is not the case,” he told the company, adding that no decisions regarding potential asset sales had been made, although company leadership was evaluating the value of its various businesses.
Of course, the most visible problem for Disney of late has probably been its underperforming theatrical releases, especially as the company is probably best known for movies and theme parks. “[N]othing is more powerful than movies” in informing investor opinions, Iger said.
He also admitted that company leadership can “feel giddy” when Disney films see box office success.
On the theme park side, Iger recently announced $60 billion in investment in that side of the business. The Journal said Iger “spent much of his time” in the townhall explaining the reasoning behind that choice.
“This is a business where you spend to succeed,” he said, although he did not, apparently explain how that made the theme park and resort side of Disney’s portfolio any different than other businesses, all of which generally require periodic investment and re-investment.
ESPN Chief Jimmy Pitaro, who joined Iger on stage at the event, said that the network planned to launch a streaming service for consumers in either 2024 or the following year, “at the latest.”
The cable network has been looking to partner with “sports leagues and tech companies,” the Journal reported, though Iger said such partnerships weren’t necessarily required for the network to continue to grow.
“We could go it alone,” Iger said. “We are fully prepared to do that.”
But, he admitted, “It would be a little more challenging if we did.”
He didn’t say it out loud, but Iger is probably hoping for a solution that’s less challenging, not more. He seems to have plenty of challenges on his plate already.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.