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Can Bob Iger Solidify Disney Plus’ Original Content to Keep It Sustainable in the Long Term?

Fern Siegel

Bob Iger transformed Disney. Now, the executive chairman has his sights set on Disney+ after stepping down as the CEO on Feb. 25.

The streamer, which debuted last November, had some big hits out of the gate, such as “The Mandalorian,” helping to add 28.6 million subscribers since its launch.

“One of our company’s greatest accomplishments this past year, as many of you know, is the successful launch of Disney+,” Iger said at the Walt Disney Co. annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday. “And we’re proud to say the response greatly exceeded our highest expectations.”

But in terms of new shows, “WandaVision” isn’t expected until December, while “Loki” has a 2021 release. And Deadline listed “The Falcon and Winter Soldier” as one of the streaming shows that have halted production due to the coronavirus outbreak, which could impact its August premiere date.

Also, Disney+ registered some misses in the original film department. Early releases, a reboot of “Lady and the Trump,” “Togo” and “Noelle,” weren’t headline making.

Balancing its family-friendly image could be a challenge in some instances, too. Hilary Duff wants “Lizzie McGuire” moved from Disney+ to Hulu, much as the renamed “Love, Victor” series did.

The Hollywood Reporter says Iger is charged with getting Disney+ to its goal: 60 million to 90 million subscribers, 50 original series and 10 films and specials each year by 2024. To do that, the company has to solidify its original content.

To date, Disney+ has over 50 scripted and 50 unscripted shows in development, according to a Hollywood Reporter source, and released 35 in its first year. But many were launched in the early months, which leaves less to entice future subscribers. And a few shows were nixed, such as Josh Gad’s “Muppets Live Another Day” and “Book of Enchantment” from Michael Seitzman.

On the plus side, the streamer does have built-in security. Some 20 percent of subscribers are locked into a one-year free membership through Verizon, while others have also signed up for three years at a discount, The Hollywood Reporter noted.

Initial growing pains are common, and Iger is a master strategist whose business gambles have paid off for Disney. The trick will be if the streamer can stay on the edgier side of PG-13, sustain the quality of its marquee franchises and create the family-oriented, inspirational movies that once clicked on the big screen.

One area Disney+ originals is promoting is documentaries. The series “Parenting Without Borders” is scheduled to begin film production soon. Jessica Alba (“Fantastic Four” and “Sin City” franchises) will star and executive produce the travel show.

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