Disney CEO Bob Iger Conveys a Message of ‘Revitalized Resilience’ during The Walt Disney Company’s Annual Shareholders Meeting

Disney CEO Bob Iger Conveys a Message of ‘Revitalized Resilience’ during The Walt Disney Company’s Annual Shareholders Meeting

The Walt Disney Company held its 2024 Annual Meeting of Shareholders on Wednesday and CEO Bob Iger thanked shareholders for their “trust and confidence” in Disney.

Iger’s comments came after the announcement that, based on the tabulation of Disney’s proxy solicitor, it appears that Disney’s full slate of 12 directors had been elected by a substantial margin over the nominees of Trian and Blackwells. Final voting tallies are subject to certification by the company’s independent inspector of elections and preliminary and final results will be included in the company’s report to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the coming days.

“I just want to take a moment to thank our shareholders for your trust and confidence in the Disney Board and management and the ambitious strategy we are implementing across our businesses to build for the future,” Iger told shareholders. “Now that this distracting proxy contest is behind us, we’re eager to focus 100% of our attention on our most important priorities: growth and value creation for our shareholders and creative excellence for our consumers.”

Building for Growth

Iger also told shareholders during the virtual meeting Wednesday about the ongoing positive impact of Disney’s strategic transformation and the company’s forward momentum building its businesses for growth.

“Our plans are ambitious, our strategy is working, and our future is bright,” Iger said in a video message from Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

Noting the company’s significant progress since the previous Annual Meeting, Iger noted, “As we gather today, we stand on a far more solid foundation, which has been fortified by our ambitious course of action over the past year. We are once again building our businesses for growth. And as we demonstrated during our most recent earnings report, we have turned the corner and entered a new, positive era for The Walt Disney Company.”

Iger highlighted the four key building priorities anchoring the company’s growth strategy:

  • Reinvigorating creativity at Disney’s film studios;
  • Achieving sustained profitability in streaming;
  • Positioning ESPN for the future and turning it into the preeminent digital sports platform;
  • Turbocharging growth in the company’s Experiences business, including domestic and international Parks and the Disney Cruise Line.

“We are executing at a rapid pace, and we are doing so from a position of renewed strength with tremendous optimism,” Iger noted.

Studios: An Incredibly Robust Slate

Iger pointed to the fact that Disney’s film and TV studios are both coming off a stellar awards season, with Disney leading the industry with 20 Oscar® nominations, including five wins. Disney also received 27 Golden Globe® nominations and won top prizes for Poor Things and FX’s The Bear. And at this year’s Primetime Emmy® Awards, Disney took home 37 wins, which was more than any other entertainment company.

Meanwhile, as part of the company’s ongoing effort to deliver creative excellence from its film studios, Iger reminded shareholders about the company’s “incredibly robust slate of upcoming theatrical releases,” which includes Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes in May, Deadpool & Wolverine in July, Alien: Romulus in August, and Mufasa: The Lion King in December.

There’s also Inside Out 2, the sequel to the 2015 Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature, which hits theaters in June.

Iger also gave an exclusive look at artwork from Moana 2, which debuts in theaters in November, offering a few hints about this highly anticipated animated feature: “Three years since her first voyage, Moana is heading out on an epic journey to find and reconnect the people of the ocean. We can’t wait to take audiences on another amazing journey with Moana and Maui, and we are excited to confirm that both Auli‘i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson are back reprising their roles.”

“Moana remains an incredibly popular franchise,” Iger added. “The original film from 2016 recently crossed 1 billion hours streamed on Disney+ and was the most streamed movie of 2023 on any platform in the U.S.”

Streaming: A Clear Differentiator

Iger noted that Moana is just “one of the many successful titles in our rich library of movies and shows on Disney+, a library that just got a lot bigger with the official launch of Hulu on Disney+ last week.”

“With our expansive collection of enduring classics and new hits available together in one place, Disney+ truly has something for everyone,” he said.

Iger pointed out that the company’s streaming strategy extends into the world of sports and that ESPN “continues to deliver meaningfully for the company.”

“We believe in the power of sports and their unique ability to convene and engage audiences,” Iger said. “And we are hard at work building ESPN into the preeminent digital sports destination to reach even more fans in innovative new ways.”

One way that the company will reach more sports fans, Iger stated, is through the joint venture announced earlier this year in conjunction with Fox and Warner Brothers Discovery to create a new streaming service that brings together the companies’ collective portfolios of sports channels.

“This new service will provide consumers more of the sports they want in a single place, including content from all the major professional sports leagues and college sports.”

Additionally, Iger talked about the company’s plans to offer ESPN as a unique direct-to-consumer service, which will launch in fall of 2025.

“We will make the full suite of ESPN’s channels available as a stand-alone and highly interactive digital destination,” he said. “This will give consumers the ability to stream their favorite live games and studio programming, and take advantage of an immersive, customizable sports experience that includes betting, fantasy sports, e-commerce, and more.”

Overall, Iger noted, Disney’s current and future direct-to-consumer offerings are “a clear differentiator for the company in a very competitive landscape.”

“We remain poised to reach profitability in our combined streaming business by the end of this fiscal year, and deliver significant, sustained growth in the future,” he added. “We have the most valuable brands and franchises, a deep library of popular titles built over the past 100 years, powerful content engines, multiple consumer touchpoints, and the best advertiser technology in the streaming business globally. No one has the breadth of what Disney has when it comes to streaming.”

Disney Experiences: Turbocharging Growth

Iger also pointed out that another clear differentiator for the company is Disney’s Experiences business.

“We’re constantly seeking creative new ways to turn our IP into top quality experiences,” he said. That includes the company’s recently announced relationship with Epic Games.

“Younger audiences in particular are huge consumers of video games, and this new universe will give players the opportunity to forge even greater connections with Disney,” Iger said.

Turning to Disney’s Parks and Resorts, Iger added that Disney continues to deliver experiences like no other for guests around the world, while generating “enormous growth for the company.”

Recent expansions and additions have been incredibly popular with guests, including World of Frozen at Hong Kong Disneyland, which opened in November (a Frozen themed land is coming to Disneyland Paris, Iger announced), and Zootopia at Shanghai Disney Resort, which opened in December. Fantasy Springs will open at Tokyo DisneySea in June.

“With such a deep well of untapped IP and buildable land, there are so many experiences that have yet to be brought to our Parks around the world, and we plan to turbocharge growth in this sector with a robust amount of strategic investment,” he said.

Meanwhile, the company’s growth strategy also includes significant opportunities for expansion at its domestic theme parks as well, including at Disneyland. Iger said that the company was pleased to have reached an “exciting milestone” as the company’s ambitious DisneylandForward initiative goes before the Anaheim City Council for final approval later this month.

“We’re thrilled about many potential new stories that our guests could experience at Walt’s original theme park, including the opportunity to embark on all-new Avatar adventures with a visit to the world of Pandora,” Iger said. “Our Imagineers have been hard at work dreaming up what guests might expect.”

Being A Responsible Citizen of the World

After speaking about Disneyland, Iger brought up the man who started it all, Walt Disney, saying that Walt “understood the power storytelling has to connect us all to one another.”

“And our company, like our storytelling, has always been a force for good in the world,” Iger said. “That’s why Disney is dedicated to conducting our businesses with clarity of purpose and a deep sense of integrity, as we strive to have a positive impact in the communities in which we operate.”

Iger then mentioned the company’s “efforts to bring joy and comfort” to children’s hospitals around the world; Disney’s Heroes Work Here initiative, which has resulted in the hiring of more than 13,000 veterans since 2012; and Disney Aspire, which covers tuition for eligible hourly and part-time Disney employees looking to pursue higher education.

There’s also the company’s longstanding relationship with Make-A-Wish in which Disney remains the No. 1 wish-granter in the world, granting more than 150,000 wishes to children facing critical illness.

“All of this ongoing work is part of our overarching commitment to being a responsible citizen of the world,” Iger noted.

A True Privilege

Iger wrapped up his remarks by thanking the company’s employees and Cast Members around the world, saying that “it is a true privilege to lead this remarkable company at this pivotal moment.”

“I’ve often said that one of the greatest attributes of Disney is the mere fact that people expect so much from us. ‘What will they think of next,’ you might hear someone say, or ‘Only Disney can do that,’” he said.

Iger continued, “we welcome that challenge, because it motivates us and energizes us to always be bold in everything that we do, and to exceed your highest expectations.”

Forward-Looking Statements

Certain statements in this communication may constitute “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including statements regarding the Company’s expectations; beliefs; plans; strategies; priorities and opportunities; future performance; business or financial prospects or outlook; future shareholder value; expected growth and value creation; profitability; investments; financial performance; expected drivers and guidance; expected benefits of new initiatives;  content, products, experiences or service offerings (including timing and nature); priorities or performance; businesses and assets; future investments and creative output; collaborations; expected benefits; and other statements that are not historical in nature. These statements are made on the basis of the Company’s views and assumptions regarding future events and business performance and plans as of the time the statements are made. The Company does not undertake any obligation to update these statements unless required by applicable laws or regulations, and you should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements.

Actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied. Such differences may result from actions taken by the Company, including restructuring or strategic initiatives (including capital investments, asset acquisitions or dispositions, new or expanded business lines or cessation of certain operations), our execution of our business plans (including the content we create and intellectual property we invest in, our pricing decisions, our cost structure and our management and other personnel decisions), our ability to quickly execute on cost rationalization while preserving revenue, the discovery of additional information or other business decisions, as well as from developments beyond the Company’s control, including: the occurrence of subsequent events; deterioration in domestic or global economic conditions or failure of conditions to improve as anticipated, including heightened inflation, capital market volatility, interest rate and currency rate fluctuations and economic slowdown or recession; deterioration in or pressures from competitive conditions, including competition to create or acquire content, competition for talent and competition for advertising revenue, consumer preferences and acceptance of our content and offerings, pricing model and price increases, and corresponding subscriber additions and churn, and the market for advertising and sales on our direct-to-consumer services and linear networks; health concerns and their impact on our businesses and productions; international, political or military developments; regulatory or legal developments; technological developments; labor markets and activities, including work stoppages; adverse weather conditions or natural disasters; and availability of content. Such developments may further affect entertainment, travel and leisure businesses generally and may, among other things, affect (or further affect, as applicable): our operations, business plans or profitability, including direct-to-consumer profitability; our expected benefits of the composition of the Board; demand for our products and services; the performance of the Company’s content; our ability to create or obtain desirable content at or under the value we assign the content; the advertising market for programming; income tax expense; and performance of some or all Company businesses either directly or through their impact on those who distribute our products.

Additional factors are set forth in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended September 30, 2023, including under the captions “Risk Factors”, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and “Business”, and subsequent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), including, among others, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q.

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