Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Disney’s dilemma

August 18, 2023
Happy Friday! Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building” is only in its third season, but you might be surprised by how many scarves the show has already gone through for Martin Short’s character.


Speaking of Hulu, its parent company Disney is going through significant changes. More in today’s big story.


What’s on deck:

  • Markets: Things are headed in the right direction, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at bond yields.
  • Tech: Inside Travis Kalanick’s chaotic sales boot camp.
  • Business: China Evergrande just filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection.
But first, ch-ch-changes.
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Streamlining Disney

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Image


Bigger isn’t always better.

That’s a lesson Disney’s Bob Iger is learning as he signals plans to shrink the Mouse House amid a tumultuous time for the company.

Iger, in his second tenure as Disney CEO, highlighted what’s in (film studios, parks, and streaming) and what’s out (TV networks) during the company’s most recent earnings.

It’s a marked shift for Iger, who grabbed headlines during his first tenure as boss for high-profile acquisitions like Marvel and Pixar.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. Disney’s stock is down nearly 30% over the past 12 months, in addition to broader headwinds like two Hollywood strikes and weak box offices.

However, changing a company with a market cap north of $155 billion doesn’t happen overnight. Insider’s Lucia Moses mapped out how Iger is looking to streamline Disney. From selling off networks like ABC and FX to deciding what to do with ESPN, there are many potential changes and plenty of risks.

In many ways, Iger’s plans for slimming down Disney represent the calm before the storm. 

The short-term goal is undoubtedly to boost Disney’s ailing stock price. But shedding struggling businesses could also be a pretext for getting Disney in shape for a much larger deal.

Apple has long been rumored as a potential buyer of Disney. The two companies have history — Iger sat on Apple’s board for eight years — and would be a natural fit, experts have speculated. Disney provides the content Apple needs, while the tech giant offers distribution channels.

It could be the first of many similar tie-ups. Media companies are realizing they’ll never get the scale they need to be profitable in the streaming era without some help.

The pressure to get a deal done — plus a content drought due to the ongoing strikes — would likely favor the buyers.

But the real winners in a dealmaking frenzy, as always, are investment banks. After more than a year of an abysmal M&A market, bankers would welcome deals to help broker and finance.


3 things in markets

Before the opening bell: US stock futures dipped premarket Friday, after US stocks tumbled Thursday.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
  1. What’s going on with bond yields? The economy seems to be in good shape, inflation keeps falling, and the Fed might be done hiking rates. So why does the 10-year Treasury yield keep rising?
  2. “The Big Short 2: Office buildings go bust.” Dan McNamara generated a 119% return for investors in just three months by betting against shopping malls in 2020. Now he’s targeting office buildings and offered a glimpse into his investing playbook.
  3. How Bloomberg’s terminal is leveraging AI. Wall Street’s most ubiquitous piece of tech has hopped on the AI bandwagon. New tools include automatically suggesting relevant research, order forms, and pricing quotes.
3 things in tech
Tyler Le/Insider
  1. How Travis Kalanick’s sales boot camp for young techies went off the rails. Otter University promised to take new sales hires and turn them into superstar sellers in just two months. But interviews with 30 current and former OtterU employees suggest the program was marred with unreachable goals, an ever-changing curriculum, and toxic party culture.
  2. Big Tech return-to-office policies continue to make headlines. Meta updated its policy with a stricter mandate, saying workers could lose their jobs if they don’t show up three days a week. Meanwhile, Snapchat is pulling cash perks for employee meals ahead of its full RTO mandate.
  3. “I built my own app without knowing a single line of code.” This 35-year-old social media marketer used no-code tools to build his own app. And whenever he got stuck, AI was there to answer his problems.
3 things in business
Long Wei/Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
  1. China Evergrande just filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection. The filing from the world’s most indebted developer, which had about $340 billion in liabilities by the end of 2022, came amid a real-estate crisis and its spillover impact on the economy in China.
  2. Gig workers are fighting back against tip-baiting. Tip baiters are customers who place orders with generous tips, then cut or reduce the tip after their orders are delivered. Now, gig workers are using Google Maps to mark the addresses of these types of customers.
  3. American Airlines is suing travel-hacking website Skiplagged. United Airlines and Southwest Airlines have both tried taking legal action against the website, too. American Airlines claims in its lawsuit that the website deceives travelers by putting their tickets at immediate risk of invalidation.

Whole Foods, Shopify, & more


Comedies, bagpipes, & fighters

  • Earnings on deck: Deere & Co., Estée Lauder Companies, and more, all reporting.
  • Hahaha: “Back on the Strip” and “The Adults” are released in theaters today. The comedy “Back on the Strip” features Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart, and other comedians. Meanwhile, the comedy drama “The Adults” features Michael Cera, Hannah Gross, and others.
  • The World Pipe Band Championships kicks off. The two-day affair in Glasgow, United Kingdom is believed to be the world’s largest bagpipe event.

Electric air taxis

Photos of Joby Aviation’s electric air taxi. Its five-seater S4 2.0 eVTOL was just approved to start flight testing.
The Insider Today team: Dan DeFrancesco, senior editor and anchor, in New York City. Diamond Naga Siu, senior reporter, in San Diego. Hallam Bullock, editor, in London. Lisa Ryan, executive editor, in New York City.
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