Disney CEO Bob Iger had tons to say about the need to innovate when I spoke to him after the company's fiscal fourth quarter earnings. Under pressure from piracy and a mature DVD market Disney is throwing out the old rules and looking for new ways to grow revenue.
With upcoming "Alice in Wonderland," Disney is releasing the DVD much sooner after the movie's theatrical run than the usual window. This may not sound like a big deal, but it's a sign that the media giant is willing to break the rules the movie theater chains and retailers like Wal-Mart have played by for decades. Instead of waiting for the typical 17 weeks after the movie leaves theaters before releasing "Alice" on DVD, Disney will rush the DVD out after just about 12 weeks. The idea is to sell the home video option before the slow summer season, when the film's fresh in consumer's minds.
Iger says the industry is dealing with greater amounts of piracy, so the sooner they can get a DVD into the marketplace, the less vulnerable the film's home video option is to piracy. Bottom line: Disney's willing to experiment with DVD distribution, based on the time of year and the type of release, to best maximize home entertainment revenues. It's worth noting that Iger effectively sees piracy as competition — competition to tackle head-on with a legit option.
The iPad is the latest technology Disney says will rev up its digital business.
Iger says the iPad's new; better consumer experience "gives us opportunities to create new products." Iger is optimistic and enthusiastic for what the iPad will mean for ESPN in particular to create new, interactive content -- a version of ESPN Sports Center is on its way. The iPad is also a natural fit for Disney's digital books subscription service. Disney's ties to Apple —Steve Jobs is Disney's largest shareholder — well position the media giant to tailor content for the new iPad platform.
The big question is whether Steve Jobs will get Apple on board for Disney's Keychest technology, a standard Disney developed to allow consumers to access their digital libraries from any device or platform. Iger wants make consumers feel like digital files have a huge amount of value because they can be played absolutely anywhere. Disney has been offering its rival media companies the technology for free-- the more media and technology companies onboard, the more places consumers will be able to access their content. Apple is really the key -- if Jobs gets on board that could open the floodgates of other partners.
While the digital business is growing, Iger emphasizes that it's not a nascent business, saying that Disney already generates over $2 billion in digital revenues.
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