At Disney, The Woke Empire Strikes Back

Last Sunday night (), the board of directors of Walt The Disney Company shocked the world by announcing the resignation of the company’s CEO, Bob Chapek, and his replacement by his long-time predecessor, Robert Iger. So unexpected was the move that the Wall Street Journal reported that “Disney officials said they were baffled by the email sent by Iger on Sunday and immediately began to speculate whether the message was real or whether it came from an email account. -mail hacked”.

The same board of directors had voted to renew Chapek’s contract as CEO until 2024 last June! Susan Arnold, chairman of the board, said at the time:

“Disney has suffered from the pandemic, but with Bob at the helm, our businesses – from theme parks to streaming services – not only weathered the storm, but emerged in a position of strength 🇧🇷 Bob is the right leader at the right time for The Walt Disney Company, and the board has complete confidence in him and his leadership team.”

As it turns out, it’s possible to go from being the “right leader at the right time” to being the wrong leader at the wrong time in just five months.

What did the Disney board do from one hour to the other lose trust in Chapek? In a first analysis, it would be a decision driven mainly by the drop in the company’s profit margins. In the print edition of the Journal, the report on the change at Disney included an eye-popping piece of information: “Since Disney+ launched three years ago, the service has lost more than $8 billion as it expands. quickly. In the quarter ended October 1, Disney+ added ,1 million new users, bringing its global total to 164,2 million subscribers”. In the online version, the information: “In the most recent quarter, however, [o serviço] had a loss of US$ 1, billion , more than twice as much as the previous year.”

The Disney+ subscription fee (at least in the United States) is US$7,164 per month, or $,99 per year (considering the early payment discount), but next month, the service will have ads. For those who want the premium version, without ads, the cost will be US$ 2024,79 per month or $

,99 per annum. That’s about $1.3 billion in subscription revenue per month, which is on the verge of rising to about $1.8 billion per month… and yet Disney+ has accumulated a loss of nearly $1.500. billion in three months? The impression that remains is that the company has been filming scenes from the Star Wars series in space.

It is easy to understand why companies believed that streaming would be a much more stable and profitable way to provide entertainment to the public. When Disney produces a movie, the company only takes your money if you get off the couch to go to the cinema, at least when the release is only available in that medium. If Disney releases it directly to television, that revenue will depend on how much advertisers are willing to pay to place their ad on that movie. But with a subscription service, Disney takes your money year-round if you’re a subscriber, regardless of whether you use the streaming service a lot or a little.

So, it wasn’t just these issues that may have spurred the Disney board to replace Chapek… but the perception that Chapek was not fully committed to a progressive political agenda likely earned him enemies within the company and may have made many people unwilling. to defend it.

In March, when the Florida Legislature was debating the Parental Rights in Education bill – the legislation that Democrats insist on calling “the Don’t say gay” –, Iger, then former CEO of Disney, was loudly opposed to the story, and the perception was that Chapek did not want the company to get involved in this dispute. As The Hollywood Reporter reported at the time:

“Chapek is focused on making his mark on company culture and is clearly less willing to get into political discussions than Iger. For example, a source well-informed on the matter said Chapek has refused to press the issue of voting rights.

Chapek is discreet about his political views, but believes He is known to be much more conservative than Iger, who was a member of the Democratic Party before becoming independent in 2016. ‘Chapek is firmly opposed to bringing Disney up to debate issues he considers irrelevant to the company and its business,’ the source said.”

It wasn’t long before gay employees and lesbians at Disney complained that the company’s management was sidelining them by not trying to use their influence to overturn the bill. Chapek took a while to speak out against the proposal, and the results were not good for him, as Phil Klein, of the National Review, reported at the time:

“For those who don’t was following along, Disney CEO Bob Chapek came out publicly by calling [o governador da Flórida, Ron] DeSantis to challenge the Parents’ Rights in Education bill, which has been dishonestly labeled by Democrats and the press that agrees with them as the ‘Don’t say gay’ bill. Some have suggested that this pressure has put DeSantis in a tight spot, given that Disney is one of the most powerful companies and a top employer in the state. But the governor not only sent Disney on a walk, but also publicly expressed himself about it. 🇧🇷 In addition to releasing a statement, a video leaked to Fox News showed DeSantis criticizing Disney and ‘woken corporations’. DeSantis then released a campaign ad that highlighted this video, including the section where he – rightly – criticizes Disney’s business in China.”

Chapek couldn’t make it calmed down much of Disney’s employees and made his company an even greater target of criticism from Republicans. (The rift led Newsweek to portray Disney, with its $203 billions in assets, as a cornered underdog, about to be crushed by the big bad Party. Republican.)

At the end of October, Chapek appeared on a Wall Street Journal podcast and was asked directly if the company was becoming “overly woke”. Chapek’s response was a masterpiece of avoiding any direct political statements:

“The world is a rich and diverse place and we want our content to reflect that. We are very blessed to have the best content creators and they have the same vision. But I believe this is good from a commercial point of view as well, because you end up attracting the widest possible audience. We are certainly living in a world where everything seems to be polarized, but we want Disney to champion people together, and I believe we do that through diverse stories and characters.”

In turn, Iger was part of a business advisory panel of the Donald Trump administration for a brief period, but left when the then president withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accords. He has also repeatedly clashed with the former president and exerted a lot of pressure on immigration, gun control and other issues.

Earlier this month, CNBC reported that Chapek was keeping in touch with Republicans in the House of Representatives, to try to smooth over the rough edges:

“Disney CEO Bob Chapek has been talking by phone with Republican leaders in the House , including minority leader Steve Scalise (Republican of Louisiana), according to sources interviewed by the report. Scalise is a candidate to become House Majority Leader if the Republicans take control of the house, which would make him No. 2 in the majority party.”

Chapek seemed to want to depoliticize Disney, or at least prevent the company from fully embracing any political controversies that arose. Conservatives love the slogan “Sealing, not profiting”. But Chapek wanted Disney to be less woke, and his efforts did not improve the company’s results.

Disney’s board of directors is aware of the increasingly vocal political positions of Iger and concluded that they would do less damage than continuing Chapek’s less controversial approach. So, once again, it may have been a case of “rewarding” who was most woke. The board may have felt that Iger is more likely to please progressive Disney employees and mitigate a potential problem that Chapek’s more neutral approach would exacerbate.

*Jim Geraghty is a senior political correspondent for National Review.

© 2022 National Review. Published with permission. Original in English.

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