Disney CEO: Disney.com to sort of compete with Netflix, Hulu

But having a multitude of content delivery options for its content "keeps people honest," CEO Robert Iger says in an interview at D9.

Disney CEO Robert Iger is interviewed by Kara Swisher today at the D9 conference in Palos Verdes, Calif. Asa Mathat/All Things Digital

PALOS VERDES, Calif.--"I don't speak for Hollywood," Disney boss Robert Iger said when questioned by Kara Swisher here today at the D9 conference

But from Disney's perspective, Iger sees new platforms (the cloud, the Net, social platforms) as great opportunities for the company. "We're in the content business," he said. "There's no question it provides challenges to old business models, but we were in businesses that were relatively low-growth, and had not changed in a long time."

When he saw the emergence of new tech platforms--Iger used the term "the video iPhone"--he said his realizing was, "Wait a minute, this is VHS," referring to the last non-Internet sea change to hit the television industry.

"There's going to be displacement of consumption...the opportunities to be entertained in the home are so much greater today." But, he said, they're all incremental opportunities for content companies.

So how will Disney keep its content profitable on these new media platforms?

"We view Netflix positively," he began, "It's a good provider for our content to be accessible on," even though some content goes through Disney's deal with Starz on the way to Netflix. Disney also has a direct relationship with Netflix. Also, "We like Hulu for a number of reasons, and not just because we're an equity partner." Iger said that the more content distribution Disney has, the better. "It keeps people honest," he said.

Swisher asked Iger about Disney creating its own video service. "Is it ever going to launch?" Iger confirmed that, "Because of its brand strength...it has the ability to be a destination. We believe we have an opportunity to deliver content directly to consumers. Disney and Disney.com is being rebuilt. It will be monetized in multiple ways," he said, including advertising, micro-payments, and possibly subscriptions (although he did not confirm subscriptions).

"Go.com did not work, although there were elements that did. We fully intend to use that technology, mobile technology, and a variety of other means, to have a direct relationship with our customers."

He said elements of the new Disney.com will arrive within the year.

Speaking about the cloud and the upcoming launch of Apple's iCloud, Iger said it's a good development for both consumers and content providers. Users don't want to "throw out" content, and keeping it in the cloud could simplify their purchases. Plus, "If we give people the opportunity...to store a lot more," they may buy a lot more.

Iger said he doesn't know much about the iCloud launch, he said. Although, he added "I have a special relationship with Steve [Jobs}, not the least because he is our largest shareholder. Of course, "We've done deals with Amazon, Hulu, Neflix."

Related link
• D9 complete coverage

Iger claimed that the "traditional platforms still monetize greater than new platforms." "Pirates of the Caribbean IV" has made $700 million in days, and "it's hard to monetize new platforms like that."

"The tablet is going to revolutionize" the content business, he believes. "We're giving people the opportunity to watch shows...whenever." However it will be a while before even that platform becomes as profitable as a good movie in theaters.

But "the movie business is less forgiving. There's no room for mediocrity...from a monetization perspective."

Iger said it's too early to write 3D's epitaph, "but you have to do it in smart ways. It has to be used carefully, in the right film, in the right way." Speaking of the emerging trend to re-release films in 3D, he defended the upcoming "Lion King" re-release in 3D.

He said high-tech personalized experiences may be coming to Disney theme parks, including the Shanghai park Disney is building. You may be able to reserve ride times, for example. Another component may be "the ability identify our guests [as they move around]...obviously with their permission."

Speaking of gaming, and the acquisition of Playdom, Iger said, "We've made some mistakes, we put too much into consoles." Now, the company is focusing on social games. The Facebook game Gardens of Time is a top 10 game on Facebook, he said (it's actually number 12 out of all apps).

Disney's Facebook presence is a platform for "marketing...carefully," but more to let Disney fans talk to each other. Disney doesn't want to create a new social network itself.

 

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