Iger talks tech, business at Media Summit


NEW YORK  -- Walt Disney Co. isn't considering an acquisition of Yahoo or AOL, and a sale of Yahoo to Microsoft would present an opportunity rather than a challenge for Disney, CEO Robert Iger said Wednesday.

If online players, including Google, are stronger, "they create value for us," Iger said in a keynote appearance that opened the 2008 Media Summit New York, organized by The McGraw-Hill Companies and produced by Digital Hollywood. "And we look at making that process better, whether (by) giving them access to video or other features."

He once again emphasized that overall, technology is a friend for content players rather than a foe, and he reiterated that Disney's digital revenue this year will grow from $750 million to $1 billion.

On a light note, Iger shared that he has a Facebook page, but only two friends. He feels it is important for industry executives to experience popular technologies and digital products, he explained.

The CEO also said he feels "extremely fortunate" to have Apple CEO and Pixar boss Steve Jobs on Disney's board. But asked if Jobs would take the reins at Disney after him, Iger said: "I haven't asked him." He added that Jobs also "hasn't expressed any desire" to run the company.

He also lauded Pixar for having exceeded his expectations creatively and financially since Disney acquired the studio.

Asked about Disney's film and TV download deal with Apple, Iger said his company has sold more than 4 million movies and 40-50 million TV show episodes to date. Most of this is incremental business rather than cannibalization of TV viewing or DVD sales, he explained.

Iger told the McGraw-Hill Media Summit that Disney will continue to roll out social networks online to increase consumer engagement with its key franchises, such as "Pirates of the Caribbean." He said the company will soon launch a "Cars"-related virtual world, Radiator Springs, as well as a similar offering for "Fairies," a new franchise Disney has been developing.

Creating content tailored to specific foreign markets is also a growth business for Disney, according to Iger, who said the firm will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in this area over the coming years.

Asked about the writers strike, Iger said it was bad for the industry. He also signaled hope that the actors would agree to a similar deal.

Iger Wednesday also acknowledged the recent flattening in DVD sales momentum, but predicted Blu-Ray would put some growth back into the market.