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Disney CEO Bob Iger talks about earnings, Netflix withdrawal

  • Disney CEO Bob Iger discusses why the company upped its investment in content delivery platform BAMtech
  • The company is building a "direct-to-consumer" version of Disney, and will be removing movies from Netflix in 2019
  • Theme park growth is healthy
Bob Iger
Michael Newberg | CNBC
Bob Iger

Disney CEO Bob Iger spoke to CNBC's Julia Boorstin about the company's earnings report on Tuesday, and discussed the company's plans to withdraw its movies from Netflix. Here's a full transcript.

JULIA BOORSTIN: WITH THIS BIG NEWS TODAY ABOUT YOUR BIG INVESTMENT IN BAMTECH AND THESE TWO NEW STREAMING SERVICES IN THE WORKS. WHY DID IT MAKE SENSE -- YOU ALREADY OWNED A MINORITY STAKE IN BAMTECH -- WHY DID IT MAKE SENSE TO BUY A MAJORITY STAKE?

BOB IGER: WELL THIS REPRESENTS A BIG STRATEGIC SHIFT FOR THE COMPANY. AND WE FELT THAT HAVING CONTROL OF THE PLATFORM – THAT WE'VE BEEN VERY IMPRESSED WITH SINCE WE BOUGHT THE 33% SHARE A YEAR AGO – WOULD GIVE US CONTROL OF OUR OWN DESTINIY, OR MORE ABILITY TO BASICALLY SHAPE THE SERVICES THAT WE JUST DESCRIBED.

BOORSTIN: AND IT WAS TWO YEARS AGO ALMOST TO THE DAY THAT YOU TALKED ABOUT THE RISE OF CORD-CUTTING AND HOW THAT WAS STARTING TO REALLY IMPACT ESPN AND THE IMPACT YOU SAW GOING FORWARD. HOW MUCH IS ALL OF THIS ABOUT THE RISE OF CORD-CUT AND YOU NEEDING TO MAKE BIG CHANGES TO CHANGE THE FUTURE OF ESPN?

IGER: WELL, THIS MOVE CAPITALIZES ON A FEW TRENDS THAT WE'VE SEEN. ON THE SPORTS SIDE, FIRST OF ALL, LIVE SPORTS CONTINUE TO BE VERY, VERY POPULAR. 94 OUT OF THE TOP 100 TV SHOWS IN 2016 IN THE UNITED STATES WERE SPORTING EVENTS, FOR INSTANCE.

SECONDLY, THE ESPN BRAND IS STILL VERY STRONG AND, THIRD, WE HAVE SEEN A FAIRLY SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN APP-BASED MEDIA CONSUMPTION ON SERVICES THAT ARE OVER THE TOP OR DIRECT TO CONSUMER SERVICES. SO WE FELT THAT IT WAS TIME FOR US TO TAKE A BIGGER STEP IN THAT DIRECTION TO OFFER ESPN-BRANDED LIVE SPORTS ON A SERVICE THAT WE CONTROL, THAT CAN BE BOUGHT OVER THE TOP AND SOLD DIRECT TO CONSUMER ON A PLATFORM, THE BAMTECH PLATFORM, THAT HAS REALLY IMPRESSED US IN TERMS OF ITS LIVE STREAMING CAPABILITY, ITS ABILITY TO MANAGE CUSTOMER SERVICES ON BASICALLY A SOUP-TO-NUTS BASIS, MEANING FROM REGISTRATION AND CUSTOMER ACQUISITION TO CUSTOMER ATTENTION AND CREDIT CARD MANAGEMENT. AND THEY ALSO HAVE A VERY STRONG AD TECH SERVICE AND AN ABILITY TO MINE USER DATA, SO THIS IS A VERY ROBUST PLATFORM, PERFECT FOR WHAT WE WANT TO DO WITH IT FOR ESPN.

BOORSTIN: SO TELL US ABOUT WHAT THE ESPN SERVICES IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE YOU SAY IT'S LAUNCHING IN THE FIRST HALF OF NEXT YEAR. HOW MUCH ARE YOU GOING TO CHARGE FOR IT, AND WHAT CAN YOU ACCESS IF IT DOESN'T INCLUDE WHAT YOU CURRENTLY HAVE ON ESPN?

IGER: WELL FIRST OF ALL THERE WILL BE ONE APP. WE HAVE THE CONSUMER IN MIND WHEN WE THINK ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE WE WANT TO DELIVER, SO THERE WILL BE ONE ESPN APP AND AN ESPN OR A SPORTS ENTHUSIAST CAN USE THE ESPN APP AS THEY HAVE BEEN USING IT TO ACCESS SCORES AND HIGHLIGHTS AND OTHER SPORTS INFORMATION. IT CAN ALSO BE USED TO YOU AUTHENTIC THEIR SUBSCRIPTION TO MULTI-CHANNEL PROVIDERS SO THEY CAN WATCH THE LINEAR ESPN NETWORKS ON IT. IF THEY WOULD LIKE TO HAVE ACCESS TO SOME 10,000 ADDITIONAL LIVE SPORTING EVENTS JUST IN THE FIRST YEAR, THEN THEY CAN BUY THE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE WHICH IS A COMPLEMENTARY OR AN ADDITIVE SERVICE TO THE ESPN CHANNELS THROUGH THE SAME APP, SO IT'S A ONE-STOP SHOPPING, ONE-STOP EXPERIENCE FOR THE CONSUMER. AGAIN, ALL ESPN-BRANDED.

BOORSTIN: AND WHO DO CAN YOU SAY THIS NEW SERVICE IS TARGETING. IS IT TARGETING CORD-CUTTERS?

IGER: IT'S TARGETING SPORTS ENTHUSIASTS AND FANS OF ESPN.

BOORSTIN: AND SO JUST TO GET A BETTER SENSE OF HOW THIS WILL FIT IN WITH YOUR OVERALL STRATEGY – IS THERE HAD A WORLD IN WHICH YOU WOULD BREAK YOUR REGULAR ESPN SERVICE OUT FROM THE BUNDLE AND OFFER DIRECT TO CONSUMER THROUGH THIS?

IGER: WELL FOR NOW THE MODEL OF THE MULTI-CHANNEL ECOSYSTEM – ONE THAT ESPN HAS OBVIOUSLY DISTRIBUTED SERVICES ON FROM THE BEGINNING, IS STILL VERY ROBUST IN TERMS OF ITS PROFITABILITY TO THE COMPANY AND TO ESPN. SO WE DON'T HAVE RIGHT NOW A NEED TO NECESSARILY BREAK IT OUT FROM THAT, BUT THIS CERTAINLY GIVES US THE OPTIONALITY IF WE GET TO A POINT WHERE THAT BUSINESS MODEL IS NO LONGER SERVING THE NEEDS OR THE INTEREST OF THE COMPANY AND THE SHAREHOLDERS AND ESPN. THIS GIVES US THE ABILITY TO GO DIRECT WITH WHAT IS THE ESPN LINEAR SERVICE, BUT THIS IS NOT AN ANNOUNCEMENT IN THAT DIRECTION RIGHT NOW. THE TECHNOLOGY PLATFORM AND THE USER INTERFACE THAT WE; RE BUYING AND THAT WELL CONTINUE TO MANAGE CERTAINLY GIVES US THAT ABILITY THOUGH.

BOORSTIN: BUT YOU DID SEE WHAT WAS IT, AS 23% DECLINE OPERATING INCOME IN YOUR CABLE NETWORK, WHICH WAS DRIVEN -- DRAGGED DOWN REALLY BY WHATS GOING ON AT ESPN.

IGER: IT'S ABERRATIONAL THIS QUARTER. LET'S BE CAREFUL. WE'VE SAID ALL ALONG WHEN A NEW CONTRACT WITH THE NBA KICKED IN, WHICH IS NOW, THAT IT WOULD HAVE AN APPRECIABLE EFFECT NOT JUST ON OUR QUARTER BUT ON THE 2017 RESULTS. WE ACTUALLY HAD AN INCREASE IN SUBSCRIPTION REVENUE IN THE QUARTER FROM OUR MEDIA NETWORKS THAT WAS SLIGHTLY OFFSET BY LOSSES IN SUBS – WE'VE SEEN A CONTINUING DECLINE IN SUBS AMONG OUR DISTRIBUTED NETWORKS, YES.

BOORSTIN: AND SO WHAT ARE YOU SEEING IN TERMS OF OVERALL CORD-CUTTING IN THE TRADITIONAL TV BUSINESSES VERSUS WHAT YOU'RE SEEING IN GAINS FROM THE SKINNY BUNDLES? OR THE NEW DIGITAL STREAMING BUNDLES?

IGER: YOU KNOW WE'RE NOT BREAKING IT DOWN IN TERMS OF SPECIFICS. WE'VE SEEN GENERAL EROSION IN THE MULTI-CHANNEL ECOSYSTEM THAT'S PROBABLY DUE TO A NUMBER FACTORS: PEOPLE NOT SIGNING UP UNTIL LATER IN LIFE. SOME CORD-CUTTING, SOME MIGRATION TO SKINNIER BUNDLES. IT'S A COMBINATION OF THINGS. IT'S STILL, BY THE WAY, EXTREMELY PROFITABLE PRODUCT FOR OUR COMPANY AND FOR A NUMBER OF OTHER COMPANIES.

BOORSTIN: NOW TELL US A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THE DISNEY APP THAT YOU'RE BUILDING FOR 2019. SOUND LIKE YOU'RE BUILDING A MINI NETFLIX.

IGER: WELL, WERE BUILDING DIRECT-TO-CONSUMER DISNEY SERVICE. WE'VE HAD A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH NETFLIX. THEY HAVE BEEN DISTRIBUTING IN THE PAY WINDOW DISNEY BRANDED MOVIES AND PIXAR-BRANDED MOVIES, MARVEL AND "STAR WARS." WE HAD A DEAL THAT GAVE US THE OPTION TO MOVE OUR FILMS FROM THE NETFLIX PLATFORM TO SOMEWHERE ELSE -- STARTING WITH A CALENDAR YEAR 2019 SLATE AND THAT'S WHAT WE'RE DOING.

SO WE'RE CREATING A DISNEY-BRANDED SERVICE THAT WILL HAVE THOSE MOVIES ON IT, AND IF YOU LOOK AT THE 2019 SLATE, IT INCLUDES "FROZEN 2," "TOY STORY 4" AND A LIVE ACTION REMAKE OF LION KING, AS A FOR INSTANCE, SO ITS AN INCREDIBLE SLATE. IN ADDITION WE HAVE A FILM LIBRARY PRODUCT AND WE HAVE TV LIBRARY PRODUCT AND WE'LL BE MAKING A SIGNIFICANT INVESTMENT IN ORIGINAL CONTENT, BOTH MOVIES AND TELEVISION SERIES, FOR THIS PLATFORM EXCLUSIVELY. SO IF YOU'RE A FAMILY OR YOU'RE INTERESTED IN THE DISNEY BRAND, YOU WANT IF YOU WANT TO SUBSCRIBE TO AN EXTREMELY RICH, ROBUST, DISNEY-BRANDED SERVICE, YOU'LL BE ABLE DO IT. IT WILL USE THE BAMTECH PLATFORM TO BASICALLY DRIVE OR POWER THE PRODUCT.

BOORSTIN: HOW BIG DO YOU THINK THE POTENTIAL AUDIENCE FOR THIS IS? DO YOU THINK THIS IS ON THE SCALE OF A NETFLIX, AND WILL YOU BE OFFERING IT OVERSEAS AND HERE IN THE U.S.?

IGER: THE DISNEY BRAND'S NEVER BEEN STRONGER. WE DO A LOT OF RESEARCH ON THAT. A LOT OF THAT HAS TO DO WITH PRODUCT CYCLE, A LOT OF THAT HAS TO DO WITH HOW WE'VE MANAGED THE BRAND OVER TIME. AND INTEREST IN DISNEY IS ONLY GROWING. THAT'S GLOBAL, BY THE WAY, IN NATURE. THIS IS A PRODUCT THAT WILL ROLL OUT IN MULTIPLE MARKETS INTERNATIONALLY WITH SOME DEGREE OF VARIATION MARKET-BY-MARKET BASED ON A VARIETY OF DIFFERENT FACTORS. BUT ULTIMATELY, THIS WILL BE A GLOBAL PRODUCT, BUT IN 2019 WE'LL LAUNCH IN THE UNITED STATES, A DISNEY-BRANDED SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE DIRECT TO CONSUMER.

BOORSTIN: AND WILL THIS BE THE ENTIRE LIBRARY OF DISNEY MOVIES OR JUST THE MOVIES THAT YOU'RE BRINGING OVER FROM NETFLIX?

IGER: IT WILL BE A COMBINATION. IT WILL BE THE PAY MOVIES - THE PAY WINDOW, SO THAT MEANS IT GOES THEATRICAL WINDOW, THAT USED TO BE CALLED THE HOME VIDEO WINDOW, WHICH IS NOW DOMINATED BY DIGITAL SALES AND RENTAL. AND THEN POST THAT, THE WINDOW THAT NETFLIX HAS, THE DISNEY PIXAR MOVIES WILL BE ON THIS PLATFORM. IN ADDITIONAL TO THAT, WE'LL HAVE A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF DISNEY LIBRARY PRODUCT FROM THE DISNEY STUDIOS OVER TIME AND TELEVISION LIBRARY PRODUCT, BUT WE'RE GOING TO MAKE A SIGNIFICANT INVESTMENT IN ORIGINAL DISNEY-BRANDED TELEVISION AND MOTION PICTURES FOR JUST THIS PLATFORM.

BOORSTIN: NETFLIX IS SPENDING ABOUT $6 BILLION THIS YEAR ON ORIGINAL CONTENT. HOW WILL YOUR SPENDING COMPARE TO THAT?

IGER: LESS.

BOORSTIN: LESS.

IGER: WE'LL BE INVESTING LESS.

BOORSTIN: WHAT DOES THIS MEAN WITH YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH NETFLIX. YOU ARE MAKING MARVEL TV SHOWS –

IGER: WE HAVE A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH NETFLIX. YES – THEY LICENSE IT.

BOORSTIN: WILL YOU PULL THOSE MARVEL SHOWS?

IGER: NO. WE HAVE NO PLANS TO PULL THAT. WE'VE HAD A GREAT RELATIONSHIP, THOSE ARE ORIGINAL SHOWS AND THE POSSIBILITY EXISTS THAT WE'LL LICENSE OTHER THINGS TO THEM THEM DOWN THE ROAD. WE'RE IN DISCUSSIONS WITH THEM ON IT. BUT FOR NOW, WHAT THIS IS NOW FOR US IS A DISNEY-BRANDED SERVICE, THAT YOU CAN BUY OF ON ITS OWN, NOT PART OF AN UBER BRAND – BASICALLY, ITS A DISNEY BRAND - AND WE THINK THAT THE TIME IS RIGHT TO DO THAT GIVEN THE TRENDS THAT WE'RE SEEING IN CONSUMPTION, THE VALUE OF THE DISNEY BRAND, THE PRODUCT CYCLE AND ALL THE OTHER OPPORTUNITIES THAT BAMTECH PLATFORM NOW GIVES US.

BOORSTIN: AND WILL THIS PRICING BE COMPETITIVE WITH SAY, NETFLIX.

IGER: WE'RE – WE'VE GOT TIME TO DETERMINE WHAT THE PRICING WILL BE. AND WE'RE CERTAINLY NOT AT THE POINT WHERE WE'RE GOING TO ANNOUNCE THAT.

BOORSTIN: DOES THIS LAY THE GROUNDWORK TO LAUNCH A MARVEL SERVICE OR "STAR WARS" SERVICE DOWN THE LINE?

IGER: WE HAVE THE TECHNICAL CAPABILITY TO DO THAT. I GUESS YOU COULD SUGGEST BECAUSE OF THAT IT LAYS GROUNDWORK. THIS LAYS THE GROUNDWORK FOR THE COMPANY TO DO A NUMBER OF THINGS. IT PROVIDES US WITH ALL SORTS OF OPTIONALITY THAT WE HAVEN'T HAD BEFORE. YOU KNOW, IT'S ONE THING TO SAY YOU'LL BE IN THE BUSINESS OF DIRECT TO CONSUMER OR OVER THE TOP, AND ITS ONE THING TO DO IT. AND TO DO IT YOU NEED A REALLY STRONG TECHNOLOGY ENGINE...AND THE TALENT THAT HAS THE EXPERIENCE TO MANAGE CUSTOMERS IN A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WAY THEN WE'VE MANAGED CUSTOMERS IN OUR MEDIA BUSINESSES CERTAINLY IN THE PAST.

BOORSTIN: CERTAINLY, A FASCINATING NEW DIRECTION FOR THE COMPANY. NOW, I WANT TO MAKE SURE WE HIT ON THE THEME PARKS, WHICH SHOWED THE GREATEST GROWTH OF ANY OF YOUR DIVISIONS THIS QUARTER. LOOKING AT THE RESULTS YOU'VE THIS QUARTER AND THE BOOKINGS YOU'RE STARTING TO SEE FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR, WHATS YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THE HEALTH OF THE AMERICAN CONSUMER RIGHT NOW?

IGER: BASED ON WE'VE SEEN THAT AT OUR THEME PARKS, THE HEALTH OF THE AMERICAN CONSUMER IS VERY STRONG. AND A LOT HAS TO DO WITH THE INTEREST, I'VE SAID THIS BEFORE, INTEREST IN THE PRODUCT THAT WE'VE CREATED AND THE SERVICE THAT WE DELIVER.

IF YOU LOOK AT DISNEY WORLD AND DISNEY WORLD, BUT IF YOU ALSO LOOK AT PARIS AND TOKYO, AND HONG KONG AND OF COURSE SHANGHAI, THESE ARE GREAT PRODUCTS AND GREAT EXPERIENCES THAT TAP INTO ALL THE WONDERFUL IP THAT WE'VE CREATED. BUILDING TWO STAR WARS LANDS IS A GREAT EXAMPLE. OF THAT. BUT WHAT WE'VE DONE WITH THE "GUARDIAN OF THE GALAXY" AND THE LICENSING AGREEMENT THAT WE HAD WITH JIM CAMERON AND FOR PANDORA IN FLORIDA. THESE ARE INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCES AND SO THE BUSINESSES THAT WE RUN ARE QUITE HEALTHY. AND I TTHINK SUGGESTS THAT THE AMERICAN CONSUMER AND CONSUMERS IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD ARE WILLING TO SPEND TO HAVE THE EXPERIENCE THAT WE DELIVER.

BOORSTIN: YOU DID REPORT HIGHER SPENDING AT A NUMBER OF YOUR DIFFERENT PARKS. AND YOU'RE SPENDING RIGHT NOW BILLIONS TO HAVE GREAT PARKS.... DO YOU ANTICIPATE, IF THERE IS AN ECONOMIC DOWNTURN, EITHER HERE OR CHINA, THAT IMPACTING YOUR RESULTS?

IGER: THEY MIGHT IMPACT OUR RESULTS SHORT TERM, IF THERE WERE A DOWNTURN. BUT WE'VE NEVER LOOKED AT THE BUSINESS AS SHORT TERM. IN FACT, WHEN WE HAD THE BIG DOWNTURN IN 2008, 2009, WE WERE AT A PRETTY AGGRESSIVE INVESTMENT CYCLE THAT PAID OFF WONDERFULLY FOR US IF YOU LOOK AT THE RESULTS, IN THE LAST DECADE ALMOST. SO WE'RE GOING TO CONTINUE TO INVEST IN THE BUSINESS FOR THE LONG TERM. AND WE BELIEVE THAT'S THE ONLY WAY TO MANAGE BUSINESSES LIKE THAT. IF YOU TRY TO MANAGE THE BUSINESSES YEAR BY YEAR OR QUARTER BY QUARTER THEN I THINK FRANKLY THEN YOU END YOU CREATING A SUBOPTIMAL EXPERIENCE FOR THE CONSUMER AND NOT REALLY BUILDING THE BUSINESS FOR THE LONG TERM.

BOORSTIN: ONE THING WE'VE TALKED ABOUT IN QUARTERS PAST IS THE NEED FOR CORPORATE TAX REFORM DISNEY PAYS A PARTICULARLY HIGH CORPORATE TAX RATE. DO YOU THINK WASHINGTON WILL BE ABLE TO GET CORPORATE TAX REFORM DONE?

IGER: I DON'T KNOW. I'M NOT GOING TO BET ON THAT ONE. IT'S OBVIOUSLY VERY COMPLICATED LIKE ALL THINGS IN WASHINGTON THESE DAYS. AND SO I'M GOING TO LAY A BET DOWN ON WHETHER IT WILL HAPPEN OR WHEN IT WOULD HAPPEN. WE CERTAINLY WOULD LIKE FOR IT TO HAPPEN BECAUSE WE PAY AN UNUSUALLY HIGH CORPORATE TAX RATE. WE BELIEVE IF THERE WERE TAX LEGISLATION IT WOULD BENEFIT CORPORATIONS. ONE, IT LEVELS THE PLAYING FIELD, INTERNATIONALLY. TWO, IT WOULD GIVE US THE ABILITY ...TO RETURN CAPITAL TO INVESTORS, MORE CAPITAL TO INVESTORS AND INVEST MORE IN OUR BUSINESSES. AND EVEN CREATE MORE JOBS WHICH WE'VE BEEN DOING IN THE UNITED STATES. MORE CAPITAL WOULD GIVE US THE ABILITY TO EXPAND EVEN MORE.

BOORSTIN: BUT NO ODDS ON THE CHANCES OF IT HAPPENING.

IGER: UNLESS YOU'VE GOT THEM – I DON'T HAVE THEM.

BOORSTIN: I DON'T. NOW, YOU DROPPED OUT OF THE PRESIDENT'S BUSINESS ADVISORY COUNCIL IN JUNE AFTER PRESIDENT TRUMP PULLED OUT OF THE PARIS CLIMATE ACCORD. HAVE YOU -- YOU SAID ABOUT THREE MONTHS AGO THAT YOU THOUGHT IT WAS IMPORTANT TO HAVE A SEAT IN THE ROOM WHEN THAT HAPPENS. HAVE YOU BEEN IN TOUCH WITH THE PRESIDENT SINCE THEN?

IGER: I HAVE NOT, NO.

BOORSTIN: AND JUST A FINAL QUESTION SINCE THE NEW STREAMING SERVICE IS OF SO MUCH INTEREST. DO YOU THINK THAT OTHER COMPANIES WILL START DOING WHAT DISNEY HAS DONE IN CREATING THEIR OWN DIRECT-TO-CONSUMER SERVICES INSTEAD OF USING NETFLIX? IS THAT A STREAMING OPTION?

IGER: I CAN'T COMMENT MUCH ABOUT THE OTHER COMPANIES. I KNOW THE INVESTMENT WE'RE MAKING IS SIGNIFICANT – NOT EVERYONE HAS, NOT ALL COMPANIES HAVE ACCESS TO THAT KIND OF PRODUCT, IT'S VERY VITAL TO WHAT WE'RE DOING. AND NOT ALL COMPANIES HAVE BRANDS LIKE WE HAVE – WHETHER IT'S ESPN OR DISNEY OR PIXAR, SO I THINK THAT OBVIOUSLY GIVES US QUITE A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE. AND SO I WOULD SUGGEST I DON'T THINK YOU'LL SEE MUCH OF THIS FROM OTHER COMPANIES BUT, YOU KNOW, I'M NOT RUNNING THOSE COMPANIES.