Walt Disney chairman and CEO Robert Iger, appearing at a Goldman Sachs investor conference in New York today, no doubt is getting a lot of feedback from his statement that, as far as cord cutting is concerned, “we don’t see evidence of this occurring.”
We’ve been around and around on this. Cord cutting is happening. Cord nevering—not really a phrase that trips of the tongue, but you get the idea—is actually the next non-wave. A generation of young people are growing up without feeling the absolute necessity to get or watch cable television in the traditional sense. Word of this must be reaching Disneyland.
Television, in the “traditional sense” that ABC operates, is a kind of dying idea and Iger would make more headlines—but he’d have a lot of explaining to do if he came close to saying that.
Wrote Todd Spangler in Variety, writing in what’s left of the beautiful Varietyese language, said “the Mouse House topper reiterated his position that TV Everywhere extensions — such as WatchESPN and WatchABC apps — that let cable and satellite TV subscribers watch programming outside the home are critical to reinforce the value of the traditional linear bundle.”
And yet, certainly Iger, like everybody else, knows that broadcast television, without a way to broadcast a live signal (like WatchABC) outside the home the medium is heading toward AM radio-like irrelevance. Likewise, TV without DVRs and TiVos (and before that VCRs) would have surely withered away in different way than it did anyway, and the TV industry waged silly fights with all of them.
But without a way to “save” television the VCR/DVR affords, the idea of television itself was devalued. And now, without a good TV Everywhere strategy, TV will be left behind by all the other video content services that go where consumers want them.
Maybe Iger doesn’t feel that so much because one thing traditional television is good—solely because it has paid the rights fees—is sports programming. ESPN is more valuable than other Disney TV properties, including ABC. And that was true all the way back in 1995, when Disney bought the ABC/ESPN combine.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Iger also sized up the value of Netflix , which he acknowledged does have “a running start" in the online video market. “It would be appropriate to declare Netflix victorious in some form," Iger reportedly said, but "it will be really hard for them to corner or monopolize the market place."
Of course, it would be really news if Iger had said otherwise. Just a few months ago, Disney and its other TV network partners in Hulu were about to cash it in until it became as apparent to them, as it was to many others, that it was one of the handful of challengers Netflix has, and has at its disposal studios name 21st Century Fox, Universal and the Walt Disney Co.
Indeed, part of the alleged Netflx headstart is that Hulu helped give it to them.
But to sum up, Iger said today TV is strong and the networks are a good value for your cable dollar; that Netflix is good, but not that good, and that cord cutting t’aint no big deal, but apps like WatchABC that allow people to watch ABC stations live, on mobile devices, are very important. Of course, to get WatchABC in the markets where it exists one has to be a cable subscriber but that stipulation seems more like massage therapy to cable operators than anything else.
So, altogether, it seems a funny appearance, in which Iger didn’t say much at all except to deliver the message executives with a heavy presence in TV always seem to deliver: Everything is great, couldn’t be better.