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Ex-Disney Chief Says Licensing Titles To Netflix Wasn’t A Wise Move

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Former Disney chief Bob Iger was deeply involved in the creation of Disney+. We’re now getting more insights into the thought processes behind the acquisition of 20th Century Fox leading up to the birth of Disney+. We also learn a fair bit about Disney’s relationship with Netflix.

Speaking to Kara Swisher on the Sway podcast, Iger said the realization that Netflix was growing its portfolio using licensed Disney content changed things significantly. The former Disney CEO went on to say that such content helped Netflix expand its business.

“They (Netflix) deserve a lot of credit. While they were doing that, they were using some of the circulation that we helped them create, and the subscription growth, to fund their own television and movie production, directly competitive with us for talent and stories,” said Iger.

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“And I woke up one day and thought we’re basically selling nuclear weapons technology to a third-world country, and now they’re using it against us. So we decided at the time that we would stop licensing to Netflix, and do it ourselves.”

Disney+ had 118 million subscribers at the end of the last quarter

But this move wasn’t without its pitfalls, at least initially. Iger acknowledges that the decision to stop licensing content to Netflix led to a “substantial decrease” in the company’s revenue. On the bright side, it also turned Disney into the streaming behemoth it is today.

It’s worth noting, however, that Netflix still enjoys a significant chunk of the streaming business. But the gap is seemingly narrowing thanks to the explosive growth of Disney+. As The Streamable points out, the platform reached 118 million subscribers in the last quarter.

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Iger also spoke about the massive acquisition of 20th Century Fox, which came after discussions with Rupert Murdoch back in 2017. The prospect of adding Fox content, including National Geographic, The Simpsons, Avatar, etc, coupled with Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, Disney, ESPN, and ABC, must have been quite tempting.

The former Disney CEO admits that these strategic acquisitions played a big part in the launch of Disney+. It seems like the gamble has paid off so far. Though it’s only been just over two years since Disney+ made its debut.

Iger said platforms like Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+ produce content to add extra value to existing services. By comparison, Disney+ uses a different model wherein a bulk of the revenue comes from new TV shows and movies.

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