Disney: Florida crisis lets mouse empire lurch

If only everything could go as perfectly as the development of the latest Disney + film “Sneakerella”. The fairytale story of the maid who first falls in love with a prince and then rises from insignificance is given an original modern interpretation here. This time it’s a creative teenager from Queens, New York, who dreams of designing magical sneakers for top athletes. The original “Cinderella” based on “Cinderella” has been part of the Walt Disney Company’s silverware since the 1950s, probably also because the values ​​of hoping, dreaming and persevering that it conveyed made up the founders themselves. It is all the more important that the lively mix of passion and modernity now gets mostly positive press.

Disney hasn’t had too much of that lately. No sooner had the trade media in the US and around the world pounced on arch-rival Netflix’s historic downturn in April than everyone was reminded that Disney, for its part, had lost more than a quarter of its market value since the beginning of the year. The conventional economic logic, according to which – put simply – Disney benefits from what harms Netflix and vice versa seems to have been undermined by the pandemic, inflation and other uncertainties. Anyone who has Marvel blockbusters in the cinema and reopened amusement parks should actually flourish given the increased desire to go out. But the majority of consumers are currently price-sensitive. It’s also causing subscription growth in streaming to slow while production costs are rising.


In such challenging times, many at Disney wished for a leader at the top of the company who was as confident, communicative and visionary as ex-CEO Bob Iger did for 15 years. Instead, Disney now has another Bob who tends to fuel the homegrown troubles: Iger’s successor, Bob Chapek. This was most recently seen in Florida, the scene of an absurd political debate that is only possible in America’s heated, polarized climate. In March, the Republican parliamentary majority there passed a new law with the official title “Parental Rights in Education Act”, which bans all school mediation on sexual orientation and gender identity before the fourth grade – therefore called “Don’t Say Gay” by opponents. titled law.

© Disney
Disney-CEO Bob Chapek

Because Disney, with its Disney World Resort, is Florida’s largest private employer, numerous employees protested against the law and demanded an official statement from their company. Chapek refused this on the grounds that statements from companies were “barely suitable” for “influencing results or moods”. This only roiled his people’s spirits even more, led to internal resistance and ultimately led Chapek to speak out publicly against “Don’t Say Gay”. The unsuccessful crisis management ended with Republican retaliation against Disney: At the end of April, the Mickey Mouse empire lost its extensive special administrative rights for the 100 square kilometer resort, which it had enjoyed for 55 years, including the associated tax benefits. “I will not allow a ‘wokes’ company from California to run our state,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is considered the Republican hope for the 2024 US presidential election. Meanwhile, Chapek is left with material and non-material damage. Quite a few believe that Iger would have managed the conflict more elegantly.

Elsewhere, Chapek seamlessly continues the course of his predecessor: in the almost radical concentration of resources on streaming, which made Disney+ the most serious Netflix pursuer with 130 million subscribers worldwide. The rapid success prompted the financial markets to rate Disney like a streamer, i.e. to support slumps in profits through sharply increased investments for the time being. Disney+ made it look so easy: 10 million subscribers on day one, 50 million after six months, 100 million after 16 months. Of course, low-price offers in the USA and Asia helped a lot, not to mention the pandemic. A number of analysts are saying today that this upbeat rating paved the way for Peacock, Paramount+ and Discovery+, who otherwise might have been more reluctant to invest.


“No Disney investor buys Disney for the sales and profits of linear TV,” said LightShed Partners analyst Rich Greenfield. “Now everyone is eyeing Disney+ subscriber growth, ARPU and profitability.” Against this background, it is right to increasingly shift TV formats such as “Dancing with the Stars”, the US version of “Let’s Dance”, or Pixar animation films to the streaming platform. Since Disney + is gaining a broader lineup beyond Marvel and “Star Wars” series through such measures, Greenfield even sees the prospect of Disney giving its two-thirds majority in US streamer Hulu (45 million subscribers) to co-shareholder NBC Universal could sell, instead of taking over the remaining third as planned.

An exciting mind game, but so far nothing more than that. The speculation that Hulu could be merged into Disney+ in the medium term seems more realistic, just as in Europe essential Hulu content is already part of the Disney+ app under the “Star” button. It’s already clear that Disney+ will follow the example of its sister Hulu in terms of advertising sales towards the end of the year. A cheaper subscription option will then also be offered, which “Boba Fett” & Co. garnishes with commercials in return – according to Disney, a “building block on the company’s way to achieving the long-term goal of 230 to 260 million subscribers by the 2024 financial year “.

US studios in transition – published so far

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