UK Disney+ executives optimistic about Bob Iger’s return
Disney+ executives in Europe appeared optimistic about Bob Iger’s return to the House of Mouse during their first public outing since Bob Chapek’s shock ouster about 10 days ago.
This despite the fact that Iger is reportedly looking to change course when it comes to streaming strategy. He reportedly told staff at his first town hall on Monday that he wants to refocus Disney+ on profitability as opposed to subscriber growth, a development that potentially puts him at odds with the platform’s current strategy, especially internationally where Disney has built up. an impressive (but expensive) stable of local originals.
Last year, Jan Koeppen, president of The Walt Disney Company EMEA, revealed that the company had increased its target for local originals from 50 to 60 by 2024. Of these, 40 have already been commissioned, produced or released. These include upcoming dramas about fashion designers Karl Lagerfeld (produced in France and Germany) and Cristóbal Balenciaga (in Spain) as well as British originals “The Ballad of Renegade Nell” (written by “Happy Valley” creator Sally Wainwright) and “Wedding Season” ” (pictured above), which was released in September.
On Tuesday, a little over a week since Iger returned to the fold, some senior Disney EMEA executives took part in a panel at the British TV conference Content London, where they appeared outwardly optimistic about the regime change.
When Variety asked if Iger’s return would affect their strategy to pursue local originals, Liam Keelan, SVP of originals, EMEA, said: “Well, he’s only been there a week.”
“What I will say is he’s a creative at heart,” Keelan continued. “Me and the team have had experience working with him when he was here last time, but just over a year with him, [Keelan joined from the BBC in Feb. 2020] but he was massively supportive in that period.”
“We were at one of these town hall things yesterday and heard him speak, and creative is always at the forefront of his thinking,” he added. “So that’s hugely encouraging to hear.”
Joining Keelan on stage on Tuesday were Pauline Dauvin, VP of programming, production and acquisitions in France, Alessandro Saba, director of original production in Italy and Benjamina Mirnik-Voges, VP of original production in Germany.
If Iger plans to dramatically refocus the streamer, it is likely to put an end to the seemingly empty checkbook the company has been brandishing internationally, even as competitors such as HBO Max have pulled out of parts of Europe.
When the Disney EMEA panel was asked how they measure the success of a particular production, Dauvin replied: “There are many elements to measure success. Like Liam said, we’ve only just started ours […] travel, so we are still in test mode. So it’s both in terms of subscribers, both in terms of changing the perception of the platform as well, press, prices, too. So that’s a lot of the KPIs I would say.”
In response to a question about oversight from Burbank, Keelan revealed that the EMEA team largely has leeway when it comes to commissioning. “It’s been, dare I say, the surprise of working for Disney, is they’ve just been incredibly supportive,” he said. “Now, of course, there has to be information sharing and discussions around shows that we’re launching, and that’s right because FX is commissioning, Hulu is commissioning, so you don’t want to be commissioning in the same place. So those kinds of conversations are going on all the time. But when in terms of what we’ve wanted to achieve with the original board, they’ve just been very good and supportive. I wouldn’t describe it in any way, shape or form as a heavy process.”
The question now, of course, is how long it will remain that way.