During an appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Thursday morning, Disney CEO Bob Iger said the striking writers’ and actors’ unions in Hollywood were not “realistic” with their expectations.
Speaking to CNBC’s David Faber from the Sun Valley Conference in Idaho, Iger commented on the Writers Guild of America’s ongoing strike and SAG-AFTRA’s impending decision to join them.
“It’s very disturbing for me. We talked about the disruptive forces on this business and all the challenges we’re facing, the COVID recovery that’s underway, it’s not completely back. This is the worst time in the world to add to this disruption,” Iger said. “I understand the desire of any labor organization to work on behalf of its members to achieve the best compensation and to be fairly compensated for the value they provide. We were able, as an industry, to negotiate a very good agreement with the directors’ guild that reflects the value that directors bring to this great company. We wanted to do the same with the writers, and we would like to do the same with the actors. There’s a level of expectation they have that just isn’t realistic. And they add to the set of challenges that this company is already facing that, frankly, are very disruptive.
SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union, is expected to go on strike Thursday morning after contract talks concluded late Wednesday night without a resolution. This will effectively halt all scripted film and television production, much of which had already been delayed due to the ongoing writers’ strike, now in its third month. SAG-AFTRA has not called a strike for more than four decades, and the last time the two unions struck simultaneously was in 1960.
Iger said that while he respects unions’ right to “get as much compensation as possible for their employees,” they must “be realistic about the business environment and what this company can offer.”
Iger continued, “It will have a very, very damaging effect on the whole business, and unfortunately there is huge collateral damage in the industry for people who are support services, and I could continue again and again. It will affect the economy of different regions even due to the sheer size of the business. It’s a shame, it’s really a shame. »
Iger’s comments come a day after it was announced that he will remain CEO of Walt Disney Co. until 2026, instead of stepping down at the end of next year as originally planned.
In a shocking move, Iger returned as Disney CEO in November 2022, less than a year after his initial exit from a 15-year run at the helm. He succeeded Bob Chapek, his intention being to seek a new successor. However, with Disney’s many internal problems and the need to reinvent its linear television model in the age of streaming, there were expectations within the industry that Iger’s contract would be extended.
Speaking about Disney’s linear business, which includes broadcaster ABC as well as cable companies Disney Channel and FX, among others, Iger said it “may not be at the heart of Disney.” When Faber suggested the idea of a sale, Iger said the company would be “open-minded and objective about the future of these businesses.”
“There’s clearly some content they create that’s core to Disney, but the distribution model, the business model that’s been the foundation of this business – and that’s been driving big profits over the years – is definitely broken, and we have to call it what it is,” Iger said. “When I came back, one of the things I found was that the disruptive forces that have been attacking this business for some time are bigger than I thought. It’s telling. It there is a reality that we have to deal with, and we have to deal with it now.
Iger also addressed presidential hopeful and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ attacks on Disney over the company’s opposition to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. “The idea that Disney in any way sexualizes our children is frankly absurd and inaccurate,” Iger said.
In April 2022, DeSantis signed a bill eliminating Disney’s Special Independent District status at Walt Disney World. Days later, Disney sued DeSantis for retaliating against the company’s free speech.
Faber also asked Iger about the neo-Nazi protest that took place outside Walt Disney World in June. “It was awful, quite frankly, and it worries me that anyone would encourage a level of intolerance or even hatred that frankly could even become a dangerous action,” Iger said.
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