Disney CEO Bob Iger talks new Star Wars series before Disney+ premier

Disney CEO Bob Iger says he’s watched new $100million Star Wars series The Mandalorian THREE TIMES to ensure it’s perfect and that George Lucas is ‘fine’ with it – as anticipated Disney+ premier looms closer

  •  Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger revealed he’s viewed the upcoming Star Wars series The Mandalorian three times before it’s release
  • The series, and a host of others, will be available for streaming after Disney+ launches November 12
  • Star Wars creator George Lucas is said to be fine with the series after being upset with Disney’s The Force Awakens
  • In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Iger shared the conception of Disney+ and the purchase of streaming tech company BAMTech
  • Disney+ will launch with a combination of movies and TV series that span Disney’s archives 

Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger’s habit of waking up on weekdays at 4.15am long predates his entrance into the billion dollar entertainment company. 

As of late he’s begun waking up early on weekends, too, to exercise and screen early versions of his studio’s movies and television shows. 

Recently, he’s focused his razor sharp attention of the first season of The Mandalorian, an upcoming space western web television series that takes place five years after the Return of the Jedi. 

Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger (pictured) revealed he’s viewed the new Disney+ series The Mandalorian three times before it’s premier November 12

The show was created by actor-director Jon Favreau, who’s recent roles in the Avengers saga and voice acting in the series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, keep this new installment all in the Disney family. 

Iger told Bloomberg Businessweek: ‘I’ve probably seen each episode of three times. First, to give some notes. Second, to see the rough cut and the impact of the notes. And now, just recently, I watched all the final cuts so that I could be blown away by how it looks.’

A sign of success is that The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars TV show, won the stamp of approval from the critical George Lucas himself.

George Lucas (left) has approved The Mandalorian after being upset with Disney’s previous Star Wars series The Force Awakens 

Lucas was upset with Disney’s first stab at the cinematic universe, The Force Awakens, but has visited The Mandalorian set to no complaints. 

‘George has been fine,’ Iger says. 

Disney is spending a whopping  $100 million on the series, so expectations are high on the production.

For anxious audiences who want to view The Mandalorian, they’ll have to sign up for the anticipated Disney+ streaming service that launches on November 12. 

Disney said the streaming site will see at least 25 new TV shows and 10 new movies, along with an archive of entertainment from The Avengers series to the Star Wars collection to beloved Pixar movies. 

The company will reportedly spend $1 billion on movies and shows like a Marvel installment starring Loki of The Avengers and a Pixar backed Monsters at Work series based on the Monsters Inc. movie. 

This new launch is the largest -and most uncertain- of Iger’s 15 years as CEO. 

Before, Disney masterfully collected an array of studios and production companies that launched them into an entirely new stratosphere of mass media success. 

Pixar was purchased in 2006, Marvel in 2009, Lucasfilm in 2012 and this year Disney’s spent $71 billion to buy a large chunk of 21st Century Fox. 

But for all these shrewd investments, Disney lacked the same stronghold on technology that peers like Netflix, Amazon and Apple TV had.

The Mandalorian (pictured) is a upcoming space western web television series that takes place five years after the Return of the Jedi

Disney also has less experience selling their products directly to customers. 

If audiences wanted to watch Disney Channel or ESPN, they purchased a cable subscription.

The blockbuster Marvel Avengers movies could be seen in movie theaters and then watched in the comfort of homes of Netflix subscribers. 

Now, Disney’s placing a new edge in the entertainment game after purchasing $2.6 billion in a controlling stake in New York-based streaming tech company BAMTech. 

And looking to out-price competitors by offering their services for a monthly fee of $6.99, when Netflix charges $12.99. 

Despite the streaming power Disney+ potentially owns, investors were skeptical of the company’s streaming ambitions. 

 Actor-director Jon Favreau (pictured) created The Mandalorian and starred in several other Disney series, including The Avengers saga

The year-old ESPN+ had 2 million subscribers but no profits while Hulu, which was acquired through the Fox deal, had more than $25 million subscribers all whilst losing money. 

Jessica Reif Ehrlich, a media analyst with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told Bloomberg that this quickly changed once the Disney+ fare was announced and Favreau showed a clip from The Mandaolrian to investors. 

‘There were two audible gasps. One was when they announced the price, which is way lower than anyone expected, but also when Jon Favreau showed the clip from. Every guy in the room went crazy,’ she said. 

Disney’s share price reportedly upped 13 percent the next day. 

It’s hopeful that Disney+ will reach 90 million subscribers globally by 2024, which could be bolstered by ESPN+ and Hulu for a total of 160 million streaming customers.  

Disney’s growing stock price could be seen as both an affirmation and a legacy mark for Iger. 

Iger, who was set to retire from CEO this year, raised eyebrows at his initial spending, but has worked to back it up with tangible victories. 

Instead of retiring, he’s agreed to stay on until 2021 as a part of the Fix deal.

Iger (pictured) will continue to work with Disney until 2021 despite being scheduled to retire this year 

In his eyes, Disney+ is the right direction for the company. 

He said: ‘It feels absolutely vital for us to do this. This is, no question about it, the future of media.’

‘I’m excited. This is gigantic for the company.’

Iger told Bloomberg that shifting Disney to streaming was difficult, because for several years cable networks generated 40 percent of profits. 

Critics believed a move to the internet would kill that business, but it became clear that standing on the sidelines while Netflix monopolized the streaming industry wouldn’t cut it. 

The revelation came in August 2015 when the effects of customers switching from cable to streaming services began to hit Disney. 

ESPN suffered decent cable subscription losses and Disney’s stock share fell 9 percent.

He said: ‘I try not to predict what Wall Street’s going to do, because I’m usually not right.’

One idea was to buy Twitter Inc., but he backed out last minute on a Sunday morning. 

While Twitter and Facebook have become embroiled in criticism from Congress, Iger is thankful he pulled out of the decision ‘every day.’

Luckily, Disney had previously paid $1 billion for 33 percent interest in BAMTech. 

BAMTech was largely owned by Major League Baseball at the time and was a staple in Silicon Valley. 

Iger said: ‘I had talked to Steve Jobs before he died. He was very impressed with Major League Baseball’s app.’

Disney chose to buy total control of BAMTech for an additional $1.6 billion to build the foundation of a streaming service and subsequently announced pulling Disney products from Netflix’s site. 

This move sacrificed millions in easy, reliable money.

BAMTech specialized in streaming entertainment without cutting quality. 

‘With movies, you can run them through a compression algorithm over time until it looks good,’ Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s entire streaming operation said. 

‘With sports, you don’t have that luxury. It’s real. It’s live.’ 

After purchasing BAMTech, Disney’s stock began to rise. 

Iger said: ‘If ever there was a validation of a strategy, it was that day. en we had to move fast.’

Disney then went on to buy the bulk of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment properties, and asked companies like Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel what they might want to add into the fold. 

Pictured: Favreau (left) along with executive producers and writers of the Mandalorian in California 

This is where the proposition of The Mandalorian from Lucasfilm on Disney+ began. 

However, profits won’t immediately roll in once the service launches and MoffettNathanson LLC, a media and technology investment firm, believes Disney+ could lose $11 billion for the next four years. 

Iger still believes Disney is in a strong position and can compete with obstacles like rising production costs. 

‘We have the benefit of being able to say there’s nothing we absolutely have to have,’ Iger says. 

‘That doesn’t mean we’re not going to reach for quality and things we get really excited about.’

In fact, Iger says Disney’s secret weapon are the company’s franchises like Pixar’s Toy Story and Marvel’s Avengers. 

He says he wishes Disney+ could launch with even more originals, but is confident in the balance between old and new content. 

“I’m anxious to share it with the world,’ Iger said. 

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