Disney CEO Bob Iger Says Fox Acquisition Broke Ground for Disney+, Hulu-Comcast Deal

Bob Iger-Getty-H 2019
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"We realized that we could create significant value from buying those assets in a direct-to-consumer strategy," he told an industry conference.

Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger says his 2017 courtship of Rupert Murdoch and his 21st Century Fox assets laid the groundwork for his studio's emerging streaming TV strategy, which includes now securing control of Hulu via a landmark deal with Comcast.

Iger on Tuesday told the MoffettNathanson Media and Communications Summit in New York City that a chance meeting with Murdoch in August 2017, which eventually led to talks about a potential acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets, revealed the possible value to be created by launching and bundling Disney-branded streaming services.

"The lens that we analyzed 21st Century Fox through had an eye to eventually launching a direct-to-consumer service," he recalled. The Disney boss said the 21st Century Fox deal, beyond buying existing film and TV content and franchises, crucially included nabbing key talent to create content to drive its streaming strategy. "We gained a tremendous amount of talent with a lot of experience to help us execute this strategy, which would have been more difficult to do without them," Iger said.

He recalled listing the 21st Century Fox assets his studio intended to acquire on a white board in a conference room in January 2018, putting them alongside Disney's own varied assets. "I had to refer to Wikipedia to figure out everything we owned. It's a long list. I have a good memory, but it's not that good," the exec joked.

Over time, Iger created a post-merger management chart, in which Kevin Mayer, as chairman of direct-to-consumer and international, would oversee Disney's multiplatform streaming services. And that would release top executives on the content side — like Peter Rice, who is now running Walt Disney Television, and Alan Bergman and Alan Horn, who are sharing the co-chairman title at Disney Studios — to not worry about content distribution and sales "and just make great stuff," he explained.

Iger also told investors that Disney+ and Hulu will eventually be rolled out internationally, but the studio is in no hurry as it focuses on launching the platforms domestically. "We will walk before we run. We have a lot on our plate in launching Disney+," the Disney chief said.