Disney CEO Bob Iger Doesn’t See Netflix as a Rival to Disney+

The Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger says there's "plenty of room" for Disney to enter the direct-to-consumer space with premiere streaming service Disney+, so far the biggest competitor to streaming giant Netflix. Crediting Netflix with paving the way in a changing media landscape now emphasizing streaming, Iger says Netflix is "huge volume," while the plentiful offerings on Disney+ — including hundreds of movies and thousands of episodes of library television, as well as exclusive new content from Disney-owned Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, National Geographic and the recently acquired Fox — are part of an approach by Disney that is "more branded, less volume."

"The fact that it does slightly different things actually doesn't make it a rival in our eyes. I think Netflix is a volume play, with a lot of quality in it. Huge volume, and they created the market and the direct-to-consumer space with video — and brilliantly, by the way — and globally," Iger told BBC Radio's The Media Show. "We come in with a different play, it's much more branded, less volume. And there's plenty of room for us to occupy space as well. It may be, to some extent, be at their expense, but not necessarily. There may be room for people to have more than one subscription to, basically, to over-the-top, direct-to-consumer services."

Asked how Disney might chip away at Netflix's streaming lead despite a 12-year head start, Iger said Disney+ has the "potential" to one day surpass Netflix's roughly 158 million subscribers.

"Well, I don't think we know how large the global market is for these products yet. So I think one question is, 'Are there more potential subscribers in the world or not, and if so, how many are there?' So I don't know if you'd call it a risk, but it's an unknown," Iger said. "Now we haven't started yet, so the way I look at it, we have the potential to get as many subscribers as Netflix does. We're not projecting that at all, but one could argue that with a service like ours, anyone that has subscription, over-the-top — essentially television — will be interested in what we have."

Iger also acknowledged the number of consumers interested in Disney+ "won't be 100%," one of the "big risks" entering the costly streaming arena.

"The other risk would be that there's just more competition in general from the space, from Apple, and Amazon, and Disney, and down the road, I'm sure, NBCUniversal/Comcast, AT&T DirectTV, Time Warner, everybody's launching," he said.

When asked if Disney should have offered its own streaming platform earlier, Iger said the service's Nov. 12 launch is in line with a still-growing market, and there remains plenty of space at the table.

"No, I think, first of all, it's still a nascent market, it's still developing. And even though Netflix has occupied a huge marketshare in that market, there's plenty of room for others, and others are coming in. So I'm not concerned about that," Iger said. "You have to launch it when you have the technology, and when you have enough content, and it takes time to get both of those right."

Iger also has no regrets over previously licensing Disney's content to Netflix, which saw Disney blockbusters like Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War and Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Last Jedi reach the streaming service.

"Well, the first thing we did was we did an output deal for our movies. And they stepped up and paid us well, well, well above what was the then-going market value for those. So it was an enormously profitable deal at a time when we had no ability to launch our own Netflix-like service," Iger said. "We didn't have the technology, and we didn't have enough content. And I think it served us extremely well, and we've never second guessed the decision. And because we believe there's plenty of room for us to enter this marketplace, and I think we'll do just fine, I don't look back on that decision and feel we shouldn't have done it."

Moving forward, recent Disney blockbusters — including Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel, Aladdin, The Lion King and Toy Story 4 — will stream exclusively on Disney+ alongside forthcoming 2019 releases Frozen II and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.


Disney+ launches in the U.S. Nov. 12.

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