Disney looking to create a new movie franchise beyond ‘Avengers’: Robert Iger

MUMBAI: Global media conglomerate Disney is looking to create a new franchise beyond the Avengers. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that the second part of ‘Avengers Infinity War’ to be released next year will necessarily be the last ‘Avengers’ movie. Also ‘Avengers Infinity War’s level of profit return might not be at the same level as some of the previous movies due to its sheer scale.

Speaking to analysts in a conference call Disney chairman, CEO Robert Iger said that the company is confident that with the 7,000 some odd characters that are part of the Marvel universe that there’s plenty stories and characters to mine from and have some great ideas. “I’m guessing that we will try our hand at what I’ll call a new franchise beyond Avengers, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t see more Avengers down the road. We just haven’t made any announcements about that.

“The goal, of course, was for the fourth Avengers series to have a significant conclusion. But given the popularity of the characters and given the popularity of the franchise, I don’t think people should conclude that there’ll never be another Avengers movie. But there’s certainly a lot more that we can – a lot more stories to tell, a lot more characters to populate those stories with.”

Disney senior executive VP, CFO Christine M. McCarthy said that while the outstanding performance is nothing short of stellar there is one difference in this movie versus some of the others.

“I’ll just point to the most recent one, ‘Black Panther’, and that’s the size of the cast. When you think about – if you’ve seen it, you’ve seen a couple of dozen Avengers in the movie. So because of the size of the cast involved and the cost of the movie and all the special effects, the scale, the magnitude, while this film is going to be very profitable, it may not be at the same return level of some of the other films just because of the sheer scale of it,” McCarthy said.

When asked about the strategic fit of owning Sky, Iger noted that Disney is buying the 39% of Sky that is part of 21st Century Fox’s assets while the rival bid is attempting to buy the remaining 61%.

“We value Sky, obviously. We’re certainly impressed by the talent that is there and the quality of the product. Actually, we’re particularly impressed with the quality of their customer experience, the user experience and the customer service they provide. And that’s certainly something that Disney can appreciate, given our record of providing high-quality customer service. I’m not going to anyway quantify what the strategic fit is except to say that in today’s world a platform that can bring product to consumers in very, very user-friendly and effective ways and then to monetize this in the process is something that we believe is attractive. And we’re not going to provide any update,” he said.

He further stated that the company’s digital products ESPN+ and soon to launch Disney branded direct to consumer product will get enriched with Twenty First Century Fox acquistion. He also said that the two products were envisaged much before the Fox acquisition.

“So neither one is dependent upon that acquisition. Both are capable of taking advantage of some of the assets we’ll be buying as part of that acquisition. On the sports front, the regional sports networks and then on the Disney front, we think there’s some great opportunities for Nat Geo and some of the other Fox properties to be part of the Disney family directto-consumer proposition, but that largely is going to be anchored by Disney, Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars, so not dependent at all on the assets that we’re buying from Fox,” he said.

Iger also noted that the company will end owning 60% stake in Hulu post-Fox acquisition. He further said that the Disney-Fox combined entity will fuel Hulu with more original programming.

“Much of that original programming will come from the assets of both Disney and Fox. Think FX as one example, Fox Searchlight is another, us using some of Fox’s intellectual property. But I’d say when we announced a year ago, we were not talking about Hulu, we were talking about these two new properties. And again, neither is dependent upon, but stands to benefit from, the Fox acquisition,” he stated.

Talking about ESPN+ product, Iger said that the company will continue to invest in buying a product that is original including live sports and non-live sports. Disney is also in the process of creating a lot of original content for the direct to consumer product which is launching in late 2019.

He also said that the new operational structure put in place by the company keeping in mind the Fox acquisition.

Disney has three primary content divisions including Media Networks or television, ESPN, and Studio. The Fox assets, Iger said, would plug into all three of those. The consumer products and parks and resorts businesses have been aligned due to synergies.

The company is also creating a global platform/distribution business that would include technology and leverage the technologies that exist across the globe including Fox assets.

“And it seemed to make sense that international become part of that, part because as part of the acquisition, there are two big platforms, Sky and Star, that are part of that. And so if this acquisition happens, it seemed to make sense that the international assets and, I’ll call it, the global platform assets, are in one business,” he noted.

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