Disney CEO: ABC upfront looking good

Iger signals no need for Redbox rental delay

NEW YORK - Walt Disney president and CEO Bob Iger said here Wednesday that early TV upfront advertising sales for the ABC network have been good.

"We are in the middle of selling," he said when asked about the upfront market at the 26th annual Sanford C. Bernstein Strategic Decisions conference, which was Webcast. While it is still too early to say much, the company's TV ad sales team has written "good" business that has been in line with management's expectations so far, he said.

Asked about competitors' recent launch of a 28 days window before DVD titles become available for Redbox DVD rentals and Netflix, Iger signalled that his firm sees no need for such a rental delay in return for discounted Disney DVDs. He argued that Disney's sell-through business is more robust than competitors'. And his company has seen no major cannibalization from the $1 Redbox rentals, he said.

His comments came shortly after a blog post from BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield that asked Iger and Disney studio chief Rich Ross: Why did DIsney let me rent a $1 billion blockbuster for $1? Greenfield explained that he did just that with "Alice in Wonderland" at a local New York Redbox kiosk in addition to adding it to his Netflix rental queue. "Why ever buy a Disney title when you can rent this easily and this cheaply?" Greenfield wondered. 

Discussing the often-tricky relationship between content and distribution companies, Iger on Wednesday said he doesn't expect regulators to mandate a la carte pricing for cable networks, which would allow consumers to choose and pay for select channels. He also predicted no regulatory interference into pricing of networks, but cautioned that network owners must avoid overpricing or failing to provide enough value to ensure regulators stay out of the way.

The Disney boss also once again touted the acquisition of Pixar a few years ago and the more recent deal for Marvel. 
While some have questioned the need for the Pixar deal and its price tag, Iger said he has sometimes woken up in sweat thinking about what the company would look like without that deal. It has particularly given renewed creative energy to DIsney.
Marvel, meanwhile, was a play for great brands and content, he said.