Disney CEO Bob Iger Touts ‘Black Panther’s’ Franchise Potential

Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger on Monday said that despite the rapidly-changing entertainment environment, he envisions a future where viewers still choose to subscribe to Disney content, even as they continue cutting the cord on more expensive cable packages.

During a question-and-answer session at the annual Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, Iger outlined a hypothetical scenario where a majority of U.S. households have an entertainment bundle that costs between $30 and $50. Consumers, Iger surmised, are not likely to bank the roughly $70 in savings from cord-cutting. “We think they’ll actually spend it on more entertainment,” Iger said. “That’s where an expanded ESPN app, a Disney app, a Hulu app, can benefit greatly.”

Iger’s appearance — his first at the Morgan Stanley conference — comes as Disney is in the middle of a number of strategic shifts, as the media conglomerate prepares to launch two new streaming services: ESPN Plus this spring, and a Disney-branded platform in late 2019.

Disney is also in the early stages of securing regulatory approval for its bid of Fox’s television and film assets in a deal worth $52.4 billion. If successful, the acquisition would give Disney access to a vast library that would help expand its content offerings for its forthcoming Disney-branded streaming platform, coming in late 2019.

Pushing back on characterizations that Disney’s streaming platform will be a rival to Netflix, Iger said he sees two distinct businesses. “Netflix is a completely different business in the sense that they’re a very-high volume business,” he said. “We’re going to be in the business of less volume, but more branded content.”

Iger argued that Disney’s brands, which include Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm, “are in enough demand, that we believe it’ll enable us to take a product to market with less volume.”

Disney studios will be making original content exclusively for the Disney streaming service, including four to five new series — among them “Star Wars” and Marvel properties — as well as four to five original films, Iger said.

On creating franchises, Iger said that it’s hard to predict which properties or characters will become the next “Avengers” or “Star Wars.” But Iger was bullish that “Black Panther,” which has so far made $400 million domestically, has become a franchise that will have staying power.

“I pretty much guarantee you around Halloween, you’re going to be seeing a lot of Black Panther merchandise on the marketplace,” Iger said. He noted that at Disneyland, the wait to meet and take pictures with the Black Panther character is an hour long.

But Disney doesn’t always launch franchises with each new film offering, Iger said. “Coco,” the Oscar-nominated animated feature about the Mexican cultural holiday Day of the Dead has captured hearts around the world, but I’m “not sure that’s necessarily a franchise, but we’re very proud of that fact that we made it.”

It has earned a number of awards for best animated feature, and done extremely well at the box office, Iger noted. “That’s not a bad thing,” he said.

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