In the post-pandemic world, should Disney’s approach to streaming be reassessed or reinforced?
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
This case is used in core curriculum