Bob Iger is looking to the future by going to the past. Iger has brought in former Disney Execs Kevin Mayer, Tom Staggs, to help advise on the future of Disney’s legacy TV assets. The duo have been brought in to discuss paths forward for the legacy TV assets, including the possible sales of these linear assets such as ESPN, ABC, and FX.
A Different Strategy For a Different Era
After leaving Disney, Mayer and Staggs founded Candle Media in 2021. They had no comment about any possible renewed ties with The Walt Disney Company. However, multiple news outlets have confirmed that both of them have been contracted individually to work as consultants alongside Iger, ESPN chief Jimmy Pitaro, and other Disney TV executives to figure out Disney’s legacy TV businesses as things continue to shift toward streaming.
The news that these former executives are once again working with Disney come after Bob Iger gave an interview with CNBC and seemed to open the door to selling Disney’s linear television assets. During the interview, Iger said that “They may not be core to Disney,” or they might be up for sale. This led to a follow up question asking if the ABC broadcast network and its local TV stations, as well as the FX cable channel were core to Disney and if they were for sale.
“The distribution model, the business model that forms the underpinning of that business — and that has delivered great profits over the years — is definitely broken. And we have to call it like it is,” Iger replied. This led to plenty of speculation that they were up for sale. Iger also shared that he had held discussions with different potential “strategic partners” for ESPN. This would help ESPN move to a direct-to-consumer model without having to sell the division of Disney. ESPN is one of the three main divisions in the recently reorgnized Disney.
Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs
Both Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs have long relationships with Bob Iger. When they worked at Disney, both were seen as possible successors for Bob Iger. Before leaving Disney when it became apparent in 2016 that he wasn’t going to end up as CEO, Staggs worked as CFO, COO, and Chairman of Disney Parks and Resort (now Disney Parks, Experiences and Products). Mayer rose through the ranks, coming from strategic planning to leading Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international operations. This included the launch of Disney+. He left Disney in 2020 when Bob Chapek was named CEO of The Walt Disney Company.
Candle Media and Consulting
The two former Disney executives and friends founded Candle Media in 2021. This media company now owns Moonbug Entertainment, Hello Sunshine, and Faraway Road Productions. The two are co-CEOs for the company. In June 2023, the company entered into a strategic partnership with TikTok to develop premium content with the company which Mayer was once briefly the CEO for.
Mayer also has already been known to be consulting with the future of streaming. In 2021, David Zaslov brought him in as a consultant for the future of streaming with Discovery. This came before the Discovery and Warner Media, now Warner Bros. Discovery. Mayer is still consulting with Warner Bros. Discovery about the transition from traditional linear television to streaming.
The Path Forward
The path forward for Disney is one of transition in multiple ways. Bob Iger recently had his contract extended to help Disney navigate this path for two years longer. In this time, Iger will be looking to set Disney on a solid path forward in a currently unstable streaming industry. He will also continue to lead the search for his successor as CEO for The Walt Disney Company, which is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary.
At this time, linear television is seeing its value being diminished as consumers continue to cut cords and move to a streaming model. However, that model isn’t a money maker for Disney yet either. Disney is looking to make the streaming model profitable before linear television is no longer contributing to the bottom line. This is the big question that Mayer and Staggs have been brought in to help answer.
What do you think of Mayer and Staggs once again working with Disney? Do you think it will help Bob Iger lead Disney into a new era of profitable streaming? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!