Disney CEO Bob Iger shared a softer side on the actors and writers strikes Wednesday, saying on The Walt Disney Company’s Q3 earnings call that he hopes to find a quick solution to the strikes and is “personally committed” to reaching an agreement.
“Nothing is more important to this company than its relationships with the creative community, and that includes actors, writers, animators, directors and producers,” Iger said. “I have deep respect and appreciation for all those who are vital to the extraordinary creative engine that drives this company and our industry. It is my fervent hope that we quickly find solutions to the issues that have kept us apart these past few months, and I am personally committed to working to achieve this result.”
Iger’s previous comments in a CNBC interview at the Sun Valley Conference, which took place just before SAG-AFTRA formally called its strike against the AMPTP, caught fire among guild leadership and membership. The guild’s president Fran Drescher called his remarks “terribly repugnant and out of touch” and “positively tone deaf.”
Iger described the demands from the WGA and SAG-AFTRA as “very disturbing to me,” arriving at a time of disruption and ongoing recovery for the industry.
“We’ve talked about disruptive forces on this business and all the challenges we’re facing, the recovery from COVID, which is ongoing. It’s not completely back,” he said. “This is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption. I understand any labor organization’s desire to work on behalf of its members to get the most compensation and be compensated fairly based on the value that they deliver. We managed, as an industry, to negotiate a very good deal with the Directors Guild that reflects the value that the directors contribute to this great business. We wanted to do the same thing with the writers, and we’d like to do the same thing with the actors. There’s a level of expectation that they have, that is just not realistic. And they are adding to the set of the challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.”
At the time he was unable to comment on any of the specifics of what he felt were unrealistic asks, but he said that the strikes would have “a very, very damaging affect on the whole business.”
“Again, I respect their right and their desire to get as much as they possibly can in compensation for their people,” Iger said last month. “I completely respect that. I’ve been around long enough to understand that dynamic and to appreciate it. But you also have to be realistic about the business environment and what this business can deliver. It is and has been a great business for all of these people and it will continue to be even through disruptive times. But being realistic is imperative here.”
Iger’s latest earnings call was his first since his contract as CEO was extended until 2026, pushing off the appointment of his successor for another two years.
Subscribers to the core Disney+ service went up by about 800,000, but Disney+’s Hotstar saw 12.5 million subscribers cut bait following its loss of cricket rights and a password-sharing crackdown in India. Iger said on Wednesday’s call that new tactics around “account sharing” will begin sometime in 2024, and that the company will begin to update subscriber agreements beginning later this year.
Disney also announced that price hikes to Disney+ and Hulu will be coming to each platform’s ad-free tiers, but that the company will also launch a cheaper, ad-free bundle of Disney+ and Hulu on September 6 for $19.99/month.
Correction: A previous version of this story said Iger had “admiration” for creatives, not “appreciation.”