The Walt Disney Company: If You Give this Mouse a Focus

In the post-pandemic world, should Disney’s approach to streaming be reassessed or reinforced?
Jerry Kim, Stephan Meier  | Fall 2020
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In August 2015, the CEO of The Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger, was on an investor call discussing the declining state of the company's pay-tv business. ESPN had been particularly hard-hit, with a loss of 7 million subscribers over the past two years as consumers cancelled cable subscriptions. To combat this revenue decline, Disney invested more than $3 billion to develop streaming infrastructure, tapped executives from across the company to lead a new direct-to-consumer division, and built its content library by acquiring 21st Century Fox for an additional $71 billion. One of the people leading the charge was Disney veteran Agnes Chu ’08, senior vice president of content for Disney+. The launch of Disney+ in November 2019 directly challenged the global streaming leader Netflix and its 152 million subscribers around the world. In early 2020, Disney found itself with a new array of challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. No major media company was more exposed to the repercussions of the pandemic than Disney, given its portfolio of in-person experiences such as theme parks and cruise lines, ESPN in a world with diminished sporting events, and the closing of the company’s movie/TV production studios. With the company facing crises on multiple fronts, it had many strategic issues to consider. What should the company’s web of businesses look like in a post-pandemic world? In this new environment, should Disney’s approach to streaming also be reassessed or reinforced? Would Chu’s bets on a strategy of “leaning into nostalgia” still be the right strategy to pursue for the streaming service, or should she reassess how Disney+ fits in to the overall strategy of the company? This case asks students to consider how Disney should leverage its large bet on the streaming market in a post-pandemic world.

Case ID: 140403

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