Robert A Iger: Streaming it big in entertainment

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MangaloreDiary News
MangaloreDiary News

As the chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, Robert A. Iger, 66, has been at the top of entertainment and sports content creation and distribution since 2005. The stock price of the company has quadrupled under his watch. On December 14, he created a global sensation by announcing the acquisition of 21st Century Fox, another giant in the entertainment industry, built by Rupert Murdoch, who is currently its executive chairman.

What deal has he struck?

Part of 21st Century Fox will be hived off before the acquisition, which is valued at $66.1 billion. The process will take 12 to 18 months to complete, after a regulatory review.

The shareholders of 21st Century Fox will receive 0.2745 Disney shares for each 21st Century Fox share they hold. Mr. Iger will stay on at the helm of the company until 2021, rescinding an earlier plan to retire in 2019. His term has already been extended multiple times. His compensation last year was $43.9 million.

What does it mean for India?

Star India, owned by Fox, will also change hands with the deal. Estimated to be worth between $14 billion and $16 billion, Star India is a key attraction in the deal. Mr. Iger underscored the significance of the Indian market while explaining the acquisition in an interview on ABC, a Disney-owned channel. Star India operates 69 channels, reaching 720 million viewers a month across India and more than 100 other countries, and it owns the broadcasting rights of the Indian Premier League. Tata Sky also moves to Disney in the deal. Satellite network Sky, which serves nearly 23 million households in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy and Fox Networks International, with more than 350 channels in 170 countries, will also become part of Disney. Popular entertainment properties, including X-Men, Avatar, The Simpsons, FX Networks and National Geographic, will come under the Disney umbrella.

What happens now?

Disney has plans to launch a direct-to-consumer streaming service by 2019, competing with Netflix, and the acquisition was from the consumer point of view, Mr. Iger said. He believes that the future of content creation is to make customised content and reaching the customer directly.

He and Mr. Murdoch had been “musing” for a while on disruptive technologies such as direct streaming, and decided that combining the forces of their individual companies was the right move ahead. The deal also gives Disney a controlling stake in Hulu, a video-on-demand service. Star Wars and Avatar will be in the same tent after the acquisition, and Disney could be controlling the lion’s share of Hollywood. Consolidation of long-running TV shows, movie titles and popular characters under its tent will enable Disney to expansively innovate.

President Iger?

Mr. Iger has shown a keen interest in American politics, particularly in the last year, leading to speculation that he is planning to throw his hat into the ring for the 2020 presidential race. He has not denied the speculation. “I’ll figure it out when I have to figure it out,” he said in October. He did not categorically deny that possibility, even after the extension of his term at Disney was announced.

Disney-owned ABC has been a platform for critics of President Donald Trump and Mr. Iger himself has waded into several political debates in America this year. He resigned from the President’s business advisory council after Mr. Trump announced America’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

When Mr. Trump announced the decision to end protection for illegal residents who arrived in the country as children, Mr. Iger said it was “cruel and misguided.” “I took a position on immigration and DACA [an immigration policy] because of how it affected the company… And I took a position on climate change, actually the Paris accord, for the same reason,” he told The New York Times in October. Fox News, the channel that is a platform for ardent supporters of Mr. Trump, is not part of the Disney acquisition.

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