Disney’s Bob Iger Resigns From Apple’s Board as Companies Launch Competing Streaming Services

Bob Iger
Stewart Cook/Variety/Shutterstock

Walt Disney Company chairman and CEO Bob Iger has stepped down from Apple’s board of directors, the iPhone maker announced in a SEC filing Friday afternoon. Iger left the board on September 10, according to the filing — the same day that Apple announced the launch date and pricing of its upcoming subscription streaming service Apple TV Plus.

“It has been an extraordinary privilege to have served on the Apple board for 8 years, and I have the utmost respect for Tim Cook, his team at Apple, and for my fellow board members,” Iger said in a statement. “Apple is one of the world’s most admired companies, known for the quality and integrity of its products and its people, and I am forever grateful to have served as a member of the company’s board.”

Iger had joined Apple’s board of directors in 2011. He had previously been instrumental to Disney acquiring Pixar from late Apple CEO Steve Jobs in 2006, which also resulted in Jobs joining Disney’s board of directors.

But while the two companies had long been intertwined at the helm, plans to launch competing streaming services were increasingly putting Apple and Disney at odds. Disney is set to launch its Disney Plus service on November 12, whereas Apple TV Plus will launch on November 1.

As the two companies enter the global streaming market, they aren’t just competing for consumer dollars, but also for programming rights. By some reports, Apple has allocated as much as $6 billion for Apple TV Plus content.

The increasingly competitive hunt for top-tier talent among a handful of well-capitalized media giants came to the forefront this week when Warner Media struck a massive deal with J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot production company following an intense bidding war. Abrams had been a director for Disney’s “Star Wars” franchise, and also recently produced a limited series for Apple TV Plus.

Iger’s decision to leave Apple’s board didn’t come as much of a surprise to industry observers: Board members who also hold executive positions at other companies frequently leave their posts when such conflicts of interest arise. For instance, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings left Facebook’s board of directors earlier this year just as Facebook was dialing up its media investments. Both Hastings and Iger would have otherwise been forced to recuse themselves from key decisions, ultimately making it harder for them to serve as board members.

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a question about succession plans for Iger’s now-vacant board seat.