Star will play an important role in Disney’s global growth strategy: Robert Iger

MUMBAI: The Walt Disney chairman and CEO Robert Iger has said that Star India will play an important role in Disney’s global growth strategy. Disney is in the closing stage of completing the $71 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets which includes the whole of Star India and 30% stake in Tata Sky.

In a conference call with analysts to discuss the third quarter results, Iger noted that Disney’s global growth strategy will be well served by the international properties in the Fox portfolio including Fox Networks Group and Star India.

The Fox Networks Group International’s 350 channels reach consumers in 170 countries whereas Star reaches 720 million viewers a month across India and more than 100 other markets.

“And as you know, Fox also has a significant stake in Sky, the most successful pay television company in Europe. The addition of these valuable assets will greatly enhance our position as a global entertainment company with excellent production and distribution businesses in key and emerging markets around the world,” he stated.

Iger is confident that the Fox acquisition will help Disney to compete very well against the likes of Netflix in its direct to consumer (DTC) strategy. The company will get 60% shareholding in video streaming service Hulu courtesy its acquisition of 21CF.

“We’ve always believed we have the brands and content to be extremely competitive and to thrive alongside Netflix, Amazon, and anyone else in the market. And adding the Fox brands and creative assets such as Searchlight, FX and National Geographic to Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and ABC, will make our DTC products even more compelling for consumers,” he said.

He had words of praise for 21st Century Fox’s various divisions like FX and National Geographic. Iger revealed that Disney will provide even more resources to support FX’s existing business and to further invest in FX as a brand and as a critical supplier of original content for our DTC platforms.

On National Geographic, the goal is to support the brand’s expansion around the world and provide the additional resources required to position the brand as another major provider of DTC content. “And we see numerous other exciting opportunities for this brand across our entire company, including in the ecotourism space,” he added.

On the film front, he said that Disney is committed to giving Fox Searchlight what it needs to continue to do what it does best and to also expand the brand into the DTC space with original television and film projects.

As far as 20th Century Fox Film is concerned, Iger sees the opportunity to be associated with and to expand franchises like ‘Avatar’, ‘Marvel’s X-Men’, ‘The Fantastic Four’, ‘Deadpool’ in the DTC space. But he also said that Disney very much values the theatre going experience.

“We’re obviously very excited to leverage the Fox assets to enhance and accelerate our DTC strategy, but I want to be clear that we remain incredibly supportive and enthusiastic about the movie theater experience. It’s a vital part of our company and, in fact, our studio just crossed $6 billion in global box office for the third year in a row.”

Iger also commented that Disney is on track for a late-2019 launch of its branded streaming service. There are original projects currently in various stages of development and production for this platform, including the world’s first live-action ‘Star Wars’ series and new episodes of the ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars’ animated series.

“Our robust content pipeline also includes theatrical movies such as the live-action version of Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, as well as new series based on popular IP from across the company such as Disney Channel’s High School Musical and Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. We’re also moving forward with brand new Marvel content and, as I just noted, the Fox acquisition brings even more opportunity to create original programming for this platform,” he averred.

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