This week, the Walt Disney Company fired CEO Bob Chapek and brought back long-serving former CEO Robert Iger.
It follows a major plunge in the company’s share price this year. The main problem? Its streaming services are losing money.
Here’s a closer look at the struggles of the world’s second-biggest media company.
The Disney empire
Disney began as a film studio and has operated theme parks since the 1950s, but it has expanded in recent decades and now owns a wide range of media, including Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, ESPN, ABC (U.S.), and the film studio 20th Century Fox. Much of this expansion happened under Iger.
Disney is now worth more than rivals Netflix, Paramount, Warner Bros and Fox combined, giving it a level of market dominance that is often controversial and has led to complaints that it is “killing” film and TV.
Trouble in paradise
Chapek was hand-picked to replace Iger in 2020, but has had a turbulent two years.
In 2020, Disney had to close its theme parks due to the pandemic. In 2021, it settled a lawsuit by actress Scarlett Johansson over a remuneration dispute.
In 2022, it came under pressure over its stance on an anti-LGBTIQ+ law in Florida, where it has a theme park – it was first criticised for its silence, then was targeted by Governor Ron DeSantis after it spoke out against the law.
The final straw for Chapek, however, seems to be the losses made by Disney’s streaming services, including Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu.
Despite having hundreds of millions of subscribers, the services lost over $4 billion across 2020 and 2021 combined. Two weeks ago, it announced $1.5 billion in further losses, prompting its worst day on the stock market in over two decades.
Iger’s return was announced on Sunday evening. Disney’s board said it believed he was “uniquely situated” to lead the company through a “complex period”.
Despite long-running reports of a rift between Iger and Chapek, Iger denied in January this year that he would return, and Chapek had his contract renewed in June.
Disney’s stock price rose upon the news of Iger’s return.