Bob Iger, Back In The Saddle At Struggling Disney, Eyes Ending Upfronts & Shaking Up Pilot Season In Post-Pandemic World – Report

Disney announced Feb. 25 that Bob Iger would hand over the CEO role to longtime Disney executive Bob Chapek but stay on until the end of his contract as executive chairman to calmly oversee the content businesses. That wasn’t to be. Instead, he’s had to jump back in full steam ahead as the company he ran for 15 years struggles though one of toughest periods in its history.

A story in the The New York Times Monday said Iger’s transition from a high-profile leadership role in the company has, not surprisingly, stalled, as the coronavirus pandemic expanded, leaving Disney vulnerable on a variety of fronts from shuttered theme parks and cruise ships to stalled production.

Disney announced Feb. 25 that Iger would hand over the CEO role to longtime Disney executive Bob Chapek but stay on until the end of his contract as executive chairman.

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“A crisis of this magnitude and its impact on Disney would necessarily result in my actively helping Bob [Chapek] and the company contend with it, particularly since I ran the company for 15 years,” he told the NYT’s Media Columnist Ben Smith in an email.

Smith wrote that Iger is also discussing what the company will look like post-pandemic, beyond figuring out how to get the parks back on line, including the possibility of temperature checks. He has asked associates to explore permanent changes across businesses that might include ending expensive upfront advertiser presentations and no longer producing costly pilots for shows that might not air.

The reference to pilots wasn’t followed up and it’s not clear what he meant. But the demise of the longstanding upfronts, where the bulk of advertising inventory for the year is sold, has been batted about for years yet they continue to fill a need for marketers and networks.  This year, live events were canceled, replaced by virtual presentations in some cases, and there’s speculation that they move to a calendar year to parties time for production to start up and the economy to restart.

The NYT said Iger told associates he believes Disney may end up with less office space and fewer employees. Iger told the paper that he did not recall ever having said he expected a smaller work force, but that in any case it would be an issue for his successor Chapek to address.

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