Every company has a story. Learn the playbooks that built the world’s greatest companies — and how you can apply them as a founder, operator, or investor.

Disney, Plus

Disney, Plus

Mon, 25 Nov 2019 14:37

The Flywheel is strong with this one. We dive deep into the origins of one of the boldest business strategy decisions of our time: Disney CEO Bob Iger’s attempt to buck the Innovator’s Dilemma - and forego billions of dollars in cashflow from Netflix and pay TV providers - in order to establish a direct distribution relationship with its customers for the first time in the company’s history. Is this the force awakening within the house that Walt built, or a phantom menace that will drag Disney to the dark side of unprofitability? Tune in to find out!




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Disney makes it very approachable, but I've just like read all their IR stuff. And like, it's not hard. Like, it's really cogent. I mean, it's quite refreshing moving from analyzing, loss making, fast growing tech companies to a company like Disney that just makes it plane, makes it clear. It makes a lot of sense. Yeah, isn't trying to hide the ball. Yeah. All right. Let's do it. Let's do it. Welcome to season five, episode seven of Acquired, the podcast about great technology companies and the stories behind them. I'm Ben Gilbert and I'm the co-founder of Pioneer Square Labs, a startup studio and early stage venture fund in Seattle. And I'm David Rosenthal and I am a general partner at Wave Capital, an early stage venture firm focused on marketplaces based in San Francisco. And we are your hosts. This time it's different. These are four very dangerous words that should set off an alarm every time you hear them. Bob Eiger, the CEO of Disney, is trying to achieve the pipe dream of what has failed so many times before in the media industry, combining content and distribution under one roof. It has been tragic before, famously with AOL Time Warner and recently being tried with Comcast NBC Universal and AT&T Time Warner. But Disney has to compete against digital disruptors like Netflix who have successfully built their own distribution and content in house. So here we are, one week after the ambitious launch of Disney Plus, where Disney will try to attempt the multi-year mission to do just that, transform their business, not just to make great content and capitalize on the intellectual property through parks, licensing and merchandise. But to be the distribution of that content as well, directly to consumers. Or another way to frame it, Bob Eiger just kicked off one of the most ambitious attempts to buck the innovator's dilemma of AOL Time, compromising hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed revenue from keeping their content on Netflix and others in hopes of capturing the long term asset of a direct connection with their fans. There's no understatement to tell you that David and I are absolutely giddy to dive into this episode and are hot off of reading Eiger's fantastic book, The Ride of a Lifetime. All right, we ever. I have one question for you that Ben. Have you watched The Mandalorian yet? I have. What are your thoughts? Well, no spoilers. And I do say no, no spoilers. No, no spoilers. I'm a huge fan. I think John Favaro is so far proving to be an amazing steward of that franchise. Yeah, yeah. I haven't watched episode two yet. I've only watched episode one, but I was big fan. I've been doing so much research for the set. Well, that's research. That is, that is research. I'll have to tell you any of that. Our presenting sponsor for this episode is not a sponsor, but another podcast that we love and want to recommend called the Founders podcast. We have seen dozens of tweets that say something like my favorite podcast is acquired and founders, so we knew there's a natural fit. We know the host of founders. Well, David Senra. Hi, David. Hey, Ben. Hey, David. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for having me. I like how they group us together and then they say it's like the best curriculum for founders and executives. It really is. We use your show for research a lot. I listened to your episode of the story of Achaomarita before we did our Sony episodes this incredible primer. You know, he's actually a good example of why people listen to founders until acquired, because all of history's greatest entrepreneurs and investors, they had deep historical knowledge about the work that came before them. So like the founder of Sony, who did he influence? Steve Jobs talked about him over and over again if you do the research to him. But I think this is one of the reasons why people love both of our shows and there's such good compliments. It's unacquired. We focus on company histories. You tell the histories of the individual people. You're the people version of acquired and where the company version of founders. Listeners, the other fun thing to note is David will hit a topic from a bunch of different angles. So I just listened to an episode on Edwin Land from a biography that David did. David, it was the third, fourth time you've done Polaroid. I've read five biographies of Edwin Land and I think I've made eight episodes of them. Because in my opinion, the greatest entrepreneur to ever do it, my favorite entrepreneur, personally, is Steve Jobs. And if you go back and listen to like a 20 year old Steve Jobs, he's talking about Edwin Land's My Hero. So the reason I did that is because I want to find out like I have my heroes. Who are their heroes? And the beauty of this is the people may die, but the ideas never do. And so Edwin Land had passed away way before the apex of Apple. But Steve was still able to use those ideas. And now he's gone and we can use those ideas. And so I think what Akkwari is doing, what a founder is trying to do as well, is find the best ideas in history and push them down to generations. Make sure they're not lost history. I love that. Well listeners, go check out the founders podcast after this episode. You can search for it in any podcast player. Most of companies that David covers that we have yet to dive into here on acquired. So for more indulgence on companies and founders, go check it out. And now on to Disney Plus. All right. Before we get into history and facts, I just want to set the stage for everyone so that listeners are all on the same page of all of the deals and acquisitions over the last really going back to capital cities, ABC, ESPN, in 95 that have set the stage for this momentous launch of Disney Plus. We've covered most of these on their own episodes on acquired, which we'll link to in the show notes. But just as quick recap, first Disney acquired capital cities, which included ABC and ESPN, most importantly, in 1995 for $19 billion. And in 2006, they acquired Pixar for $7.4 billion, 2009, Marvel for $4 billion, which is, oh man, going back and relisting to that, doing research for this, we didn't grade that highly enough. That was one of the best acquisitions of all time in any industry. We also didn't know Infinity War was going to do what it did at the box office. Incredible. And everything before that in the franchise. Highest grossing movie of all time. Okay, then also in 2009, Disney invested in Hulu for a 30% stake. We don't know how much they paid for that. 2012, they acquired Lucasfilm for $4 billion. In 2016, as we'll talk about later in this episode, this was rumored, but then Bob admitted in right at the lifetime of this book, they nearly acquired Twitter in 2016 and walked away. The day before, right? It was like a Sunday when they called it awesome. On the Monday, they were going to announce it. And Jack Dorsey was on the Disney board. So awkward, awkward turtle. We'll get into that in 2016, though, they did. We did our episode on BAMTEC, which has aged really well, really encouraged listeners to go back and listen to our BAMTEC episode. They acquired first a minority stake for a billion dollars and then they acquired a majority stake in 2017. In total, they spent $2.6 billion on BAMTEC. And then the big one, Fox. 21st century Fox, deal closed in March of this year, 2019 71.3 billion dollars. And then the final piece of the puzzle is they have agreed. Disney has agreed to acquire from Comcast. The remaining 33% of Hulu that it does not own, they will spend at least $6 billion on that and that will close within the next five years. Disney and their legendary strat planning M&A team is the masters at setting these like deals of investments with options to acquire and over time and they've done really well. So okay, that's to set the stage. Keep all that in mind. Speaking of Bob Eiger and strat planning, I think of sort of like Thanos, like where he like after using the Infinity Stones, like goes off to the other planet to rest for a while. Like you just look at this list. It's unbelievable. Oh my God. That's the best analogy ever. Also because like Bob Eiger and Thanos could not be more polar opposite. Yeah. Well, that is the perfect key up to the history in fact, we couldn't have timed this better. When Bob didn't intend it this way, his book that just came out right of a lifetime is so good. Everybody should go buy, read it, listen to it, whatever you need to do. This is one of the best business books. It's right up there with Shudog that have come out in the last 10 years. Completely agree. When you say he didn't intend it this way, are you referring to like timing it with the Disney plus line? He intended to time this with his retirement from Disney. But obviously as we will see, things did not go quite according to the plan. But the story that we're going to tell here is Bob Eiger's story because the story of all of these deals, the culmination of it all in Disney plus and going direct to consumer. This is Bob's vision. It is very directly Bob's vision. And the story of how it came to be is an incredible one that and one that is just unparalleled in today's business world. So this is a man, Bob Eiger, who has worked for every year of his life except one. He's very first year out of college. He was a weather man in Ithaca, New York for a local TV station. Except for that one year, he has worked for the Walt Disney company in one form or another for the same company. 45 years. The last 13 of which have been a CEO of the company. He literally started at the bottom. Let's rewind all the way back. Who is Bob Eiger? So he was born in 1951. When you look at him, he looks like a 50-year-old. I mean, he's a 78. He's 68. Yeah. He's 68. He is incredible shape. He was born in 1951 to a Jewish family in Brooklyn. But he spent, I believe when he was five, they moved to a working class town on Long Island called Oceanside. And Bob's father was a World War II veteran. He had been in the Navy in World War II. And he was a mid-level ad man in New York City. He was madman, he was Don Draper. The parallels are so apt. He and Bob talks about this in the book. His father suffered from depression, which was hugely stigmatized back then. From a lot of reasons, I imagine no small part having been the sailor in the Navy during a war. And he even underwent electroshawk therapy to treat it. All that said, he did instill in Bob a love of both music and literature and a very, very strong work ethic. Bob was not a great student in high school, but he was a hard worker. And he went to Ithaca College for college. And he worked his way through school working at the local pizza hut. And to this day, famously, Bob does not eat any carbohydrates except for pizza. Bob's pizza. But it was his dream in high school to become a network news anchor man. He wanted to be, you know, like Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and so when he graduated in 1973 in Ithaca with a degree in television and radio, he, as we mentioned, worked briefly as a weatherman for the local cable TV station there. He was not particularly talented on that side of the camera, unfortunately. But we all strengths and weaknesses. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Fortunately, though, does not take Bob long to figure this out. In 1974, the next year after he graduates, he gives up on the dream of being in front of the camera, moves behind the camera. And he also moves back closer to home to New York City where he joins ABC, which then was a independent company, just ABC, at the bottom. So he was basically a go for on television sets for like soap operas and game shows. Like he was like cleaning the sets, fixing them up, getting there at four in the morning, getting ready for recording, all of this stuff for $150 a week. And literally when you say go for like, he was the guy that, when they would say like, yeah, we need two hours to do this thing. Like go hang out with the talent so that we can tell you to tell him to come back when, you know, when we're ready. Like that was his job. They kind of said, we're going to get into this in a sec. But you know, literally like his big break comes when he works on a television special with Frank Sinatra. And it's like Frank needs mouthwash. Bob, go run to the pharmacy. Go get a mouthwash. You know, that kind of stuff. Get a great New York Times interview that we'll link to in our sources with Maureen Dowd. Bob says, you know, quote, he says, I never viewed myself as exceptional. So whenever I got a job, I was relying on hard work more than anything and a level of enthusiasm and optimism. And Bob is nothing if not an optimism. He says, when I went to ABC, everybody there went to Stanford or Dartmouth or Columbia, I went to Ithaca College, okay? I didn't have an inferiority complex, but I knew I wasn't one of them. I didn't wear Gucci shoes. I didn't wear Brooks Brothers clothes. I couldn't afford any of that stuff. But I knew I had a work ethic that was prodigious. And what happened early on is people started relying on me because they knew if they asked me to get something done, I would get it done. And that is what Bob does. So as we alluded to, shortly after he gets there to ABC, he gets his big break where they're televising a big special from Madison Square Garden called The Main Event, hosted by the chairman Frank Sinatra. I think it's like a boxing themed musical number. I mean, television was different back in those days. So he meets Frank, he meets the chairman by getting him mouthwash. Frank says, hey, what's your name, kid? And he says, Bob and Frank's like, great job. He gives him $100 bill. I did not know that he was the chairman. Like I didn't know that was a nickname. And I'm reading the book. And I was like the chairman of ABC. Like who's this chairman that you're eating? I'm like, I'm an idiot. The legend. Blue eyes, the chairman. Yep. So this special The Main Event, the quote unquote, was produced by two legends at ABC, Jerry Weinthrab, and most importantly, Rune Arlidge. I think Rune was involved maybe because it was like a boxing themed thing. I don't know. But Rune was legendary. So he was the head of ABC Sports. Now Bob was working in ABC, what would become entertainment like the, you know, television shows. So Bob was game shows that way. He wasn't working in sports. This was where the cool guys were at ABC. Right after this special, Bob gets into a big fight with his boss in entertainment, because it turns out his boss was like embezzling from the company. It was not good and Bob realized he's about to get fired. So he calls up one of the sports guys that he worked with on this event and says, hey, do you have any openings over there? Can I transfer over there? They're in a completely different building in New York. He transfers over there and he starts working again from the bottom within ABC sports. So what was sports? I mean, they had money and I football at the time. They had the wide world of sports, which I remember was still a thing like when I was growing up, spanning the globe, like bringing all of this, you know, great content, all these stories from around the world. And most importantly, ABC at the time had the Olympics. So they showed the Olympics in the US every year. And what Rune had realized and kind of built within ABC that would then get taken over to ESPN shortly and be a big part of their success was that they weren't selling showing sports like just televising a football game or the Olympics or some, you know, random event that they did on the wide world of sports without a story was was flat. It was boring. They were selling storytelling. They were selling entertainment. What were the narratives? Who were these people? Where did they come from? What adversity had they faced? What was the storyline of the game? And so all of that that was really pioneered by ABC sports and by by rune. David, we probably could have saved ourselves a lot of time if we had done this episode like three and a half years ago because I feel like it took us like three years to figure out. Oh, the reason people like acquired is not let's do an audio discounted cash flow and figure out if that acquisition makes sense financially five years from now. It's the stories behind the deals. And I think rune hit this thing that it's only recently occurred to me that everything is storytelling. You know, I'd obviously work on a lot of pitch decks and human beings absorb information best through story. You know, it's a multi billion dollar realization that rune hat that would that would sort of play out over the the next several years that this is the way to build enduring fanhood. Yeah. And what's super cool about this, I feel like this is one of the like key meta themes for acquired that run across everything we look at on the show and acquired itself. I mean, I'm thinking about Sequoia and Don Valentine. Hopefully many of you have gone and watched on YouTube the talk you gave it. Stanford, he says in there, the most important thing is storytelling. Money flows as a result of the stories. If you can't tell a story, you're not going to raise money. I love the way you phrase that. I think listeners, David gave us homework, so I hope we went and watched our YouTube videos. Only because it's done Valentine. Anyway, okay, so to pick the story back up, the other thing that rune really embraced within ABC sports and pioneered was technology. So this is back in the 70s. So technology within media, you know, is not Disney plus. We're a long way from that. I think this is really where the seeds of all of this get sewn. Roon embraced, you know, new camera technology, graphics overlays, graphic overlays on live content, new camera angles, satellite feeds to be able to take content from the wide world of sports and the Olympics from all over the world, get instantaneously broadcast back to the US and retransmitted. And he had kind of a mantra around this, which he called innovate or die. And unless you were pushing the envelope and using technology and using new techniques to in the service of telling better, more engaging stories, you were just going to fall behind and someone was going to surpass you. And so both of those things, both the storytelling and the innovator die mindset of Roon really, really rub off on Bob in the early days. You know, Bob gives all the credit to Roon for teaching him this innovator die lesson. But if you look at the parallel story that was happening, you know, maybe a dozen years earlier with Walt Disney himself, you know, the start of Disney of Disney animation was incredible innovation, figuring out how to make these animated motion pictures in vending new machines to do it. You look at this technology. Good technology. Totally. The start of Disneyland, the whole Imagineering department creating animatronics like Disney 2 was built on this foundation of of innovator die and use technology to tell stories. Yeah. I mean, it's again, such a thread on acquired. It's, you know, it's Steve Jobs who's going to come in here in a minute. It's technology in the liberal arts. You know, that's where real magic happens when the two of those things come together. So Bob rises through the ranks over the next 10 years at ABC sports. He becomes a VP and then in 1985 when he's just just a little over 10 years, probably 10 years into his time at sports, famously as we covered in our ESPN episode, the minnow eats the whale and capital cities this backwater. It's a crappy penny pinching backwater. Yeah. Broadcasting, you know, company in the Northeast acquires ABC and literally that was the headline in the Wall Street Journal the day it was announced was minnow eats whale. At first there was, you know, and Bob talks about this and the book, there was quite a bit of culture clash between like you've got these scrappy penny pinching, you know, Tom Murphy and Dan Burke, you know, Warren Buffett. I wanted to say disciples of contemporary, you know, a simpatico kindred spirits and then you've got, Roon was many, many great things, but penny pinching was not one of them. And certainly Nora was the entertainment side of ABC, you know, it was Hollywood. So there's some initial culture clash, but Bob and other folks at ABC really are part of kind of bridging this gap and they get to know Tom and Dan and they actually realize they're coming from the same cloth. And Tom Murphy in particular comes to really trust Bob, Bob Agar as one of the key managers within the company that can kind of make instill this ethos of the ultimate investor mindset and really excellent business management into the creative industry that is, you know, both sports and entertainment within ABC. And so much that we'll get into a minute that when Dan Burke, so Tom was CEO of capital cities, Dan was CEO, they were, they were a duo when Dan retired, Tom asked Bob to become his CEO and replace Dan. You know, that's how that's how much he's like we said, cut from the cloth of this Tom Murphy Dan Burke Warren Buffett, you know, style of management. So Bob keeps rising. First he gets promoted to run ABC entertainment, the where he first started out at ABC, sort of the Hollywood side of the house. So he moves out to Hollywood and entertainment have been struggling unlike sports, which was an unquestioned leader at the time. And of course, then with the capital city's acquisition, ESPN came into the fold and ESPN is really taking off during this time. Bob now gets tasked with make the entertainment side of the house. Great to. And this was really key because he had to learn now how to navigate Hollywood, which is, you know, he's a he's a Jewish kid from Long Island. Like this is not what he's used to despite rubbing shoulders with with Frank Sinatra. But it's out there in his suit and, you know, he's he's he knows he can't quite do business the way that he's used to doing business in New York, but he also has no idea how you're supposed to do business in Hollywood. Yeah, totally, totally. So one of the things though that he realizes and I think leads to him being able to succeed is there is one commonality, which is it's all about the stories. You know, if you tell a great story, you're probably gonna succeed. So Bob, he really leans on the people around him to help him learn the business and he has a very low ego about it, which is one of his hallmarks. But he has a pretty good run. So he green lights doogie house, which is a massive success for the network. Twin peaks, which ends up being quite controversial and Bob in the company probably make the wrong decision to cancel it, but a massive risk, you know, putting a dark drama on network television. The way to think about what Bob's doing here is it's he knows that he's put it in there for a reason. He has to revamp this group a little bit. He knows that he's not a typical Hollywood guy. So he can't just go and pretend to be one. And so what he's trying to do is basically a flank attack. Like I have to take a different approach to doing this. I have to zig when other people are zagging and what do I do? Green light, very non-traditional content and sort of go with my gut and take some risks on stuff that other people probably wouldn't put on the air. Yeah. Well, I think it's a balance, right? He, it is that it is that outside of perspective and the willingness to take risks. They're going to come up again and again and again in this episode. But he also does his homework. Like he doesn't just ride in and be like, we're doing things my way. He really, really trusts the people around him and says, I'm not from this industry. I respect you all as creators. I want to learn from you. So let's think about like what are some like just given norms in our industry that maybe aren't right that like we should we should consider challenging. So Twin Peaks is a great example of that. My PD Blue, he launches Roseanne is another great example of that. The Roseanne show becomes very successful. There would be controversy with the reboot later more recently. But that all goes really well. And in 1992, Bob gets promoted by Tom and Dan to become president of all of ABC. So sports, news, entertainment, all reporting up to Bob and the rest of capital cities they have their own managers for. And then like we said in 1994, Dan Burke retires and Tom says, Bob, Bob had just recently two years before become president of ABC. Bob says, I don't know that I'm ready to come in and run capital cities with you. And Tom says, you don't have a choice. You got to come in. You're my CEO. You're running all of capital cities with me. And ESPN at this point in time is, you know, again, really like we covered in that episode, it's clear that this is going to be a multi, not just billion dollar business, but tens billions of dollars business in the future. So enter Disney. Right after Bob becomes COO of capital cities and take us through this is 95. And we're at 1995 right now is 94 when Bob becomes COO at the Sun Valley Conference, the Alan Company famous Sun Valley Conference in the Idaho, Michael Eisner, the who we're going to talk a lot about the CEO of Disney, then CEO of Disney gets together with Tom Murphy and Warren Buffett. And they cook up a plan for Disney to acquire capital cities and ABC and ESPN. This is to preview a little bit when we talk about Disney plus and get into this. This move, Michael Eisner was an equally legendary CEO of Disney before Bob. This was his capstone was unfortunately, Eisner stuck around a little bit too long after the capstone as we'll see his first 10 years were incredible. His first 10 years were in absolutely incredible. And then this was the capstone that ended up in really, you know, ABC of course, super, super important, but ESPN becoming part of Disney. And for many years, I mean, again, I remember we talked about this on the episode when I was a media investment banker right out of college in New York, you know, covering Disney, people just like basically discounted everything else within Disney, the animation, the parks, the studios, everything. So basically zero and it was just like this company is ESPN. It is that powerful. It is the most profitable by a million miles cable network and content provider in all of America. Yeah. I contextualize that for listeners every single person who is paying for cable in the United States and is getting ESPN, ESPN 2 and the rest of the stuff that comes with it, the sports stuff is paying about $9 directly to ESPN of whatever the bundle price is, $40, $50. It's crazy. When you think about, let's say it's $50, let's say they're making a, they're 2Xing the cogs or their cost of goods sold of the actual channels. So like nine of the $25 for all of those channels are just going to ESPN. Yeah. And contrast that with $699 a month for Disney Plus, right? So now Disney is going direct to consumers, seven bucks a month for all of their content versus they're getting $9 from the cable bundle just for ESPN. Yep. Yeah. Wow. Okay. So this deal happens $19 billion. And he acquires the company and actually a super key part of the deal, like a sticking point for Disney and for Michael Eisner was he was not going to go through with the deal unless Bob committed to running ABC for at least five years after the acquisition. He was worried about Bob leaving and it was like it was like a nonnegotiable point and actually held up the closing of the deal, which is kind of amazing. Eisner to rewind back to him a little bit. He's quite an interesting character. So he had actually started his career at ABC, but he had become CEO of Disney in 1984. And he had turned around Disney from Walt Disney had died in 1966. And for that almost 20 years before Eisner took over, Disney was completely floundering, producing no notable IP, no new movies. I mean, they were producing new movies, but they weren't any good. They narrowly survived a series of takeover attempts, the park's worth struggling. There was no vision. You know, it was it was a really rough period. And you think about like what Disney animation was in those earlier days, it was snow wide, it was sleeping beauty. I mean, it was these like classic enduring. I mean, you have Mickey Mouse being, you know, created and that lasting the test of time. But yeah, I mean, before I had no clue, which are incredibly innovative. Yeah. I think about everything you associate with Disney, it's all sort of in this like 50s and 60s era. And then there's like very little, the early 80s for Disney, I guess I think that's right, is pretty akin to like the early 80s for music. Like it's kind of best forgotten. Oh, okay. There was like some good stuff, but no, no good stuff out of Disney. But the Disney board had recruited Eisner and his partner really in turning around Disney Frank Wells, who was his COO. And they did a couple really important things. Most importantly, they brought in Jeffrey Katzenberg to be head of Disney animation and head of the studio. And Jeffrey completely turned things around. So, you know, some movies that you might be familiar with, you probably are no matter where you live in the world, the little mermaid, beauty in the beast, Aladdin, the Lion King. These are all hit after heard movies. Yeah. In these golden years of the late 80s through the mid 90s at Disney. The other things that Eisner and Wells do to really turn around Disney are they get big time into the VHS, the home video business, VHS and then DVDs. And they're really smart about this. They do like limited edition, I remember this growing up like windowed releases of limited time only, you can get snow white. Pull out of the Disney vault. VHS, pull it out of the vault, you know. I haven't done enough research to really know, but I think they probably and Disney at this time probably are big innovators in this concept of windowing that became so prevalent in the media industry of really milking as much profits out of a set of IP and content as possible with you got the theatrical release, you've got the home video release, you've got the TV release and building excitement around all of it. The concept of the Disney vault became so prevalent that SNL did a parody of like looking inside the Disney vault and it's all these characters like trapped in there. Like, yes. It's definitely worth looking at. Oh, yeah. Then like we said, the capstone of all this is the capital city steel where they bring ABC and ESPN into the company. Very, very sadly though, right before the capital city steel, Frank Wells is killed in a helicopter crash in 1994. So you know, had this not happened, I think history would have been really different for Disney, for Eisner and probably for Bob and Iger too. And this really throws everything for a loop. So when the capital city steel happens, Eisner is looking for a number two to be his partner to help run the company because this is a massive company. You know, no one person can even Bob Iger can really run this by himself or herself at this point in time. And so Eisner is looking for a number two. And when the deal happens, you know, Bob is so important and there's this clause in the acquisition that he has to stay on for five years, this head of ABC. You know, people start thinking including Bob that, you know, maybe he's a good candidate eventually for this number two role at all of Disney. Bob writes about in the book that Tom Murphy actually told him around this time like, hey, you know, look, you play your cards right. You might be CEO of this company, this whole Disney company one day and indeed that would be true. The path is not quite straight to get there though. Michael Eisner was thinking about bringing on a number two, but it was not Bob. So this is like a we work type situation. This is the we work of the mid 90s. Disney was it honestly was not to just totally keep dunking on we work here on acquired. But this was all over the news and all over America. What a disaster this was. Eisner brings in super agent Michael Ovitz to become his number two clear, a clear COO candidate, you know, the clear choice. What do you, what do you want in a really operationally strong person to help you run a large recently combined business? Someone who's basically never managed people. Yeah, never managed people is a founder to like Michael Ovitz was like was incredible. I mean, he started CAA, creative artist agency. Greatest agent of all time. Yeah. And you know, if you've seen the movie Jerry McGuire, you know, that's about sports agents. But like, you know, that whole world is Michael Ovitz or entourage the, oh shoot the agent in our college. Are you going? Yeah. You know, that's Michael Ovitz. So he comes into Disney and it is just just a disaster. Incredible culture clash. Bob is now under Michael Ovitz. Remember Bob is like Warren Buffett, Tom Murphy, Dan Burke School of Manager. He's now reporting to super agent Michael Ovitz. Eisner really has a foot in both worlds here. He's an incredible guy himself, but Disney is Disney. It is not an agency. And when you say a foot in both worlds, I mean, Eisner had that creative gift that that Walt had. I mean, Bob talks about how Eisner would go through parks and be able to spot issues with line of sight and things like that that are taking away from the experience being magical. You could imagine that that also leads to micromanagement, which was true. On the other hand, you know, isn't so far from the capital city's world of figure out what's quarter of business, make it really lean, make it really operationally sound. You know, I think I got a little bit more of that than Eisner did, but oh, it certainly had no notion of that. Yeah. And to the foot in both worlds, you know, Eisner, to maybe try and put ourselves in his mind set at this time a little bit, Jeffrey Katzenberg, very much, you know, extremely, extremely talented, but more of the Michael Ovitz, you know, type of personality and creative, you know, genius than the, you know, Warren Buffett operational style. Eisner's gift was he recognized that talent out there and he recognized in Katzenberg and it led to this great, great flourishing within the company. You know, I think he probably hoped that Ovitz would be able to bring that back, bring that spirit back to Disney. It didn't work out though. So Ovitz only lasts 14 months at the company and leaves after 14 months. This is in the late 90s, middle 80s leaves with a hundred and forty million dollar golden parachute. $1.7 billion at a Newman payout of its day and leaves the company kind of in shambles behind him. And Eisner's reputation, having gone from turned around this iconic American company and produced, you know, with Katzenberg, the Lion King Aladdin, all these great movies to this Disney is the laughing stock of, you know, the business world at this point in time. Eisner goes back after this, you know, he's wounded and in more ways than one and he goes back to running the company solo and consolidating all authority and responsibility with himself. He assigns Bob. This actually becomes really prescient. He assigns Bob to what seems like a, a, I was going to use Siberian Alpost, actually he's a Siberian Alpost to go run international for the company. Disney was not huge internationally at this time and Bob actually learns a lot by going and operating Disney's business. This is when, you know, Euro Disney was getting set up on the theme park side, which was a disaster at first famously until they figured out that European parents want wine at lunch to deal with their toddlers running around. And I think that turned it around. Different countries are different. I think American parents probably also want wine at lunch to be able to deal with their kids. And I think that's one of the reasons that I've been so keyed into Disney recently is I went to Disneyland for the first time three months ago and yes did see Galaxy's Edge and yes, it was awesome. And there's a bar in the right there is and it is the only place, but you have to get these reservations. It's almost impossible to get it and you have to like very pre-plan it. But it's the only place in the entire park to get alcohol and at least in Disneyland. I think California Adventure you can. I think in Disneyland you used to be able to and they took a hard pivot and got rid of it all. Interesting. I think they have a little bit of a some experience with that going poorly at Disneyland. Interesting. Interesting. But importantly, running international here was the very beginning of Shanghai Disney. Which would become one of Bob's, we're not going to talk about as much on this episode, but another marquee project for him over his whole career at the company in his 10 year CEO was opening up China to Disney from you know, content obviously, but also theme parks. Right. And the crazy thing is thinking about the timeline of that. So that started when Bob went to run International here in this time frame. We're talking about it. It opened in the last few years. Yeah. Was it 2018? 2017. 2017 and 2018 and Disneyland Shanghai opened. An incredibly long project. So Bob does very well running internationally. And in addition, he's still running ABC as well. And so finally, in January of 2000, Eisner does promote Bob to COO. He kind of has to at this point in time. It's for this sort of like keeping up at arm's length. You're sort of my number two, but you're not actually my number two. And the board is really starting to get really upset with Michael at this point in time after all. Especially around succession planning. Like what's the plan dude? Like you're not doing that great. And even if you were, it would be nice to know where we're going after you. Yeah. Like you've been here a long time. Anyway, so Bob finally does become COO, but still all is really, really not well. And the biggest problem that's going on at Disney at this point in time despite all this drama and personnel stuff is animation. You know, and there's a saying within Disney that we're going to talk about a number of times over this next bit here, which I think goes all the way back to to Walt of as animation goes. So goes the company animation and what animation really means, you know, get a member at this point in time. Disney doesn't have a star wars. It doesn't have Marvel. It like has, you know, some live action. One of the other really smart things that... Touched down pictures. Well, right. One of the other really smart things that Eisner and Wells did was they acquired Miramax. That gave Disney an adult film, not an adult film, a film studio capability targeted at grownups, not just kids. I mean, although Disney movies are for grownups too, which is the beauty of them. But anyway, animation was the core of the IP generation that flew through Walt Disney's beautiful flywheel that we've talked about on a few episodes here. We'll link to, again, in the show notes. You know, back in the early days of the Walt Disney company, Walt illustrated this flywheel. You know, it's like an Amazon. It's so good. It's the original one of how Disney's business model works. And at the core of it all is animation. Animation means the generation of intellectual property and content and characters. And that flows into movies, television, publications, theme parks, characters, visits, consumer products, all of this. But without the life cycle of constantly inventing new and refreshing old IP, that all starts to break down. Dave and I have reviewed the Disney flywheel diagram and talked about it. I think at length on many episodes. And I actually looked at it the other day to prep for this and started thinking about it more. And one thing that I thought about was sure the film IP powers the parks and the parks meet people want to buy merch and owning the merch makes you want to watch the movies again and go see the sequels. But like, how does it actually shake out financially? And looking at the income statement for Disney that if you think about the year that ended this last September, this is pretty counterintuitive. So studio entertainment did about $11 billion in revenue. But parks, experiences, products, licensing, that sort of thing did over 26 billion. And that's pretty similar to what the me and networks division did that's largely ESPN. And so when you think about it, like sure, the movies are a big, great business on their own. And of course, this includes Lucasfilm and Star Wars and all that at $11 billion. But more than twice as big is how they sort of monetize in a down funnel way of that seed that they've planted with the audience of, hey, you should engage with us in these other ways. That is what really makes Disney special and is Disney's mode and is the reason why we talk about it so much on this show. There are lots of other media companies out there. There's 21st Century Fox, which we'll talk about. There's Time Warner. There's plenty of others. But nobody else has this ability to take $11 billion in film revenue and add an additional 26 billion dollars in flywheel revenue around it to give you a sense of how bad things were. Oh man, I remember this. This was dark. Here's a sampling of Disney animation movies that come out during this time. You ready for this, Ben? Yeah, I'm glad you're sitting down. Tarzan, dinosaur, Atlantis, Treasure Planet. Remember Treasure Planet? Oh, yeah. I mean, I remember we're in a of Treasure Planet. Like these were, yeah. Brother Bear. Is this the Emperor's New Groove? Yeah, the Emperor's New Groove. That was probably one of the more successful ones during this time. Things are dark. So the flywheel really starts breaking down, like parks are down, like everything's bad. There's one saving grace though during this time period and it's a big one, which is that Disney has a very close collaboration with a little company up here in the Bay Area called Pixar. And Pixar is an independent public company. We've talked about, sadly, was our first episode. Our history and facts on Pixar. We're going to talk about it a little more here. It's about a sentence. And we really need to revisit the whole episode. But Pixar had done to get distribution and then additional revenue. They'd done a big deal with Disney, where Disney distributed the Pixar films and co-licensed with them all their characters for theme parks and merch and ran the Pixar characters through the Disney flywheel. And the movies and the content that Pixar has always produced, but what was producing during this time was Toy Story. The very first one was Toy Story. The very first one was Toy Story. Toy Story, Toy Story 2, a bug's life, monsters ink, the Incredibles. Compare that to Tarzan. And so this was really keeping the Disney flywheel afloat was the second party IP that was flowing through it from Pixar. Even finding Nemo was pre-acquisition. I don't remember. I think it was. I don't know if it was. I don't know if it was. Yeah, okay. Yeah, that definitely was pre-acquisition. Yeah. The acquisition was 2006. So unfortunately, and this was the last straw for Eisner. Eisner and Steve Jobs get into a very public clash. And the deal goes sour. And Pixar and Steve, Steve owns 49% of Pixar at this point. And Pixar is a public company. Pixar announces that they're going to walk from the Disney deal at the end of their original three movie contract. Steve Jobs publicly, he's already come back to Apple at this point. He started his re-assendancy, the IMAX, the iPod have happened. He is incredibly well respected business person. And remember, the narrative around Disney has been, this is, this is we work. And he calls Disney completely mismanaged and like, you know, basically a dead company. The really interesting thing here though, to come back to technology and this will, you know, to bring back Disney plus, Disney, the content and the creative side of the house was a mess. But also the technology side of the house was a mess. You know, again, like it was always new technology that was driving Disney animation. And they had just completely stagnated. And Pixar was the one that had taken the lead here. Yeah. I mean, what they were doing was, and still is so cutting edge. I mean, if you look back at Toy Story and think about the year that that was produced, it was at 90, 95, 5. I mean, by no means the photorealistic stuff that it is today or the water or the sky or the, you know, but it is absolutely pioneering and so unlike anything that anybody else in the industry was doing. Yeah. I mean, I don't know if you guys have any idea about like, I'm trying to even remember what kind of computer I had in 1995. If I even had a computer, I mean, I think my family had a computer. Yeah. I did not have my own computer. My family had a PowerMac 8500. It's the Motorola, the Motorola chip that, that Max ran on for a while. Like, I don't know how to like compare that and make it hurt to anything. Yeah. But it was. And here's Pixar making Toy Story, you know, so incredible with the render farm. As Nolan Bushnell told us, he figured out how to do render farms with gigantic, cellular process of parallel computing. Yeah. Yeah. So, the Disney board, once the Pixar deal falls apart, they've had enough. So in late 2003, Roy Disney, who is the nephew of Walt and the sort of store of the Disney family's involvement on the board and with the company and longtime Disney family lawyer, Stanley Gold, who's also on the board, they resigned from the board and they launched the same thing. The Save Disney campaign. It's so bad. So here you have Disney family members, former board members, campaigning and the goal of the Save Disney campaign is AUST Michael Eisner, SEO. Yeah. Let's, let's not mince words about what Save Disney means. Yeah. Save Disney means get rid of Eisner. And so they decide that how they're going to run this campaign is they're going to wage a proxy battle for the March 2004 shareholder meeting of Disney where they're going to encourage all the shareholders. You know, the proxy vote is at the annual shareholder meeting of every public company. There's a vote like the all the shareholders vote according to their voting rights on the board of directors and the management of the company. And they're encouraging shareholders to vote Eisner out of the company and off the board. They're going to vote in no confidence very interestingly right at this time. And I remember this happening, Comcast, which at this point in time, you know, Comcast is just a cable company. Like they are literally just a cable distribution company. I think they own the 76ers and the Philadelphia flyers at this point in time. They're based in Philadelphia. And they're nowhere nearer hated as badly as they are today. The internet hasn't launched. You can't see any tweets. Yeah. Totally. I mean, they're still hated. It's just everybody thinks they're the only ones who hate stuff. Yeah. They launch a hostile takeover bid for Disney. They offer $64 billion in Comcast stock to take over the company because they see like, hey, this is damage goods. We want to make this play. We want to get into content and distribution. We're going to build an empire here. And it's kind of a miracle. It doesn't work. Like it almost works. You know, here we are 15 years later. Comcast is a $200 billion company. They've acquired NBC Universal, so they have gotten their content side of the house. But Disney is a $250 billion standalone public company that once was almost acquired by Comcast for $64 billion. Yeah. Pretty good that didn't happen. In a sneaky move too. Like right, you know, that night before the earnings call. Yeah. Yeah. Well, and while this saved Disney proxy war was going on. So interestingly, the media world is a small world too, just as is the technology world we talked about on this show, Comcast number two, I don't know if it's headless COO or president or just what the CEO is Brian Roberts. The number two person is Steve Burke, son of Dan Burke, who had worked for Bob briefly at ABC before the capital city's merger. So there's a lot of personal history here. Fortunately for Disney, at least, Comcast bid eventually collapses because Disney stock runs up in price on the announcement of this takeover bid and Comcast just can't afford it even with a share deal. And what was it that made the stock pop there? I think it was like, there was a couple of movies that did well and there was like one data point in earnings that got everyone excited. It was like a small sort of like glimmer of hope in this otherwise pretty destitute time that made the stock pop and made this bid impossible to go through. Yeah. It was a, I haven't said this in a while. It was history turning on a knife point. The bid collapses, but the shareholder meeting still has to happen in March and an astounding 43% of Disney shareholders vote no confidence in Eisner at the shareholder meeting. Like that's insane. That never never happens. Yeah. Whenever I get those things in the mail, I'm always like, haha, like I could have anything to do with this decision. Yeah. So in the immediate aftermath, literally that night, the Disney board meets and they strip Eisner of his chairman title. So he was chairman and CEO. So he's no longer chairman of the board. And he announces that he's going to step down from the company at the end of his contract, which expires in 2006. He would end up leaving earlier, but that's really a sad kind of ignomanius, you know, end for. It's an example of somebody staying too long again, his first 10 years within the company were amazing, but the second 10 were terrible. So the board runs a search for a new CEO and Bob Eiger is the only internal candidate, but it's a super uphill battle. Like he's the COO to Michael Eisner through all of these disasters. So nobody believes he's actually going to get the job. They're looking at all sorts of external candidates. Interestingly, the front runner external candidate is Meg Whitman, who started her career within Disney, which is the craziest thing I learned in this research. Of course, we know Meg Whitman as Meg Whitman for America or Meg Whitman of eBay. What's she CEO of now, HP, right? She was CEO of HP. Now she's CEO of Quibi, bringing it all the circle. Oh, that's right. Yeah. But she started her freaking career in Disney's strategic planning. Yep. Yep. As did so many people, Jeff Jordan, who went on to become CEO of Open Table and now is, well, it was General Partner for many years. And now it's just promoted to co-managing partner of Andrews and Horowitz, board member of many great companies, including Airbnb, Michael Deering, great seed stage investor. We look up to a lot here at Wave. Many, many great folks have come out of Disney's trap planning. Crazy. All right. So you got Eiger here, this guy that let all the bad things happen as CEO. Oh, come on. This was on your watch. Like why are you CEO? Why should you be? Why are you CEO material? And this is where Bob comes up with the plan. So we're now in 2004, 2005. Bob comes up with the plan that ends in Disney+. And he says he realizes that both to get the job as CEO, he has to distance himself from Michael. And he has to do that by making his plan about the future of Disney. Like forget the past. Like the past is done. We have to look to the future. And it's also the right thing for Disney. Like Disney, you know, it's innovator die. Like they have not innovated in a long time and they are dying. Like they need to change their approach to consumers to the market, to technology to everything that's happening around them. So he comes up with three key pillars of what he thinks is going to transform Disney and save it. One, make high quality content. And importantly, that's content of all types, not just animation. But it has to be extremely high quality. And we're going to quote from him in the book on these three points here, because I think they're just super cogently and eloquently laid out. And again, remember this is 15 years ago, he laid these out. And importantly branded content, content that we own that can be enduring franchises that will enable the rest of the Disney flywheel to spin. Yeah. So he says we needed to devote most of our time and capital to the creation of high quality branded content as he said in an age where more and more quote unquote content was being created and distributed. We needed to bet on the fact that quality will matter more and more. It wasn't enough to create lots of content. There are lots of people creating lots of content, including like YouTube and UGC, just creating tons and tons of content, some of which is great. It wasn't even enough to create lots of good content with an explosion of choice consumers needed an ability to make decisions about how to spend their time and money. Great brands would become even more powerful tools for guiding consumer behavior, they believe. And that was just like so spot on. Not obvious at the time, like YouTube is about to get started here. You know, web 2.0 is happening. Flickr is out there. Like UGC, everybody's like UGC, UGC, UGC. It's not obvious that the future is actually doubling down on professional, super high quality content. It's very interesting. And I think we see this trend in a lot of ways where you sort of are as the long tail starts to exist. And actually, I think this is right around that time that the long tail book came out. There's two different strategies and two different playbooks to run. One is enable the long tail, which means that you create these smaller affinity groups around really niche things that go super deep, like the acquires of the world and the 700,000 podcasts that are out there. And then at the head of the curve, if you're going to be one of the few that wins there, you need to run a very different strategy to say, hey, this is the pillars. These are the things that America is going to galvanize around. Not just America, but the world, which we'll get into in a second. It's a venture's end game. I think Bob and Disney, I think they appreciate UGC and they appreciate all the technology, companies and innovation and everything that's happened over the ensuing 15 years. But it's an aunt, you know? It's like, there's YouTube and there's Netflix. Right. But they're inherently not that. Like Disney, it's partially why the Twitter deal fell apart. I mean, I think when they really looked at it, they were like, boy, all this like user creates a grain of there's always risks and stuff involved in it because people are tweeting all the stuff that they're tweeting. But like, it's just not, it's not actually what we do. We create content. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So number two, this is number two eventually becomes, I think the most important of these three points is invest in technology. Rewind back to this point in time. And I remember it being an immediate investment banker at this time. Media companies were hating on technology companies. Like we'd just come out of the Napster era and now all the movie studios are worried about like the same things going to happen with video that happened to music and YouTube's going to kill us and like this, all this priority content and like, it's all just crap and we hate these people. Bob instead says we needed to embrace technology to the fullest extent. First by using it to enable the creation of higher quality products like Pixar. And then to reach more consumers in more modern, more relevant ways from the earliest Disney years under Walt technology was always viewed as a powerful storytelling tool. Now it was time to double down on our commitment to doing the same thing. It was also becoming clear that while we were still and would remain primarily a content creator, the day would come when modern distribution would be an essential means of maintaining brand relevance, Disney plus unless consumers had the ability to consume our content in more user friendly, more mobile, more digital ways, our relevance would be challenged. You know, again, this is such a change like, remember the Disney Vault? Like Eisner era, Disney was all about protecting the content, limiting consumers' access, only you know, opening the vault at very, you know, specific moments of time. And then ESPN backed it, you know, getting $9 a month from the cable providers. This is like super revolutionary here that Bob is espousing. He's saying like, nope, we're eventually going to get rid of all that. Yeah, and he didn't say it in so many words until like August of 2017, you know, there was definitely this working to use technology both for creating better content and, you know, enabling better distribution. But I think the whole industry for a while thought that meant things like, when things like Netflix emerge, we will be okay putting our stuff there. I don't think anyone thought that it meant what ultimately happened with Disney plus. I think publicly, yeah, I think that's true. But I think it's a little unclear from the book, but I think this was part of this original presentation to the board was he knew that like the day was coming when just like giving the, you know, Netflix didn't even exist yet, but giving the equivalent of Netflix the right, like where they had to own it themselves. And so the mindset of starting to build towards that, you know, started with Bob becoming CEO. And then the third point was grow globally. You know, I get it's hard to like remember now. I mean, actually for our international audience, it's probably easy to remember. Disney for all the IP of Disney and especially now Marvel and Star Wars have universal worldwide appeal in every country and culture. Disney wasn't that fact then. It was an American company, you know, like they had Euro Disney, but, you know, and like and made no more, more obvious than by when you go to Disneyland and you walk around and you're like, oh my God, I'm in like this, the epicenter of Americana. Like this is like the most glorified county fair I've ever been to. It sort of exudes 1950s American mainstream USA. Yeah. So this was the third pillar of Bob's strategy was, I need, you know, seen this, I think from his time running international, like, hey, guess what? There are a lot more people out there who don't live in America than do. And oh, and by the way, that it's an emerging middle class in huge countries elsewhere. Yeah, yeah. So he presents this vision to the board and it's really compelling. You know, it's a brutal process. But through this vision, he's able to overcome, honestly, like there was no way he was going to get this job without, without something really compelling. And in fact, he tells talks about in the book, he had breakfast with Jeffrey Katzenberg during this process and Katzenberg told him is like, dude, your career is done. Be busy. He's told him to write up a resume. He tells him to start doing community service to rehabilitate his image. And not that you mean, just do community service, that's good. But like, you know, it's so bad that Bob has a, he has an anxiety attack during, he takes his son to a clippers game. He thinks he's having a heart attack and he's about to die. It's just a brutal, brutal process. There's one management lesson in here. I know we're talking about the book a lot, but it obviously informs so much of this and is really tremendous. At the end of the book, he compiles a bunch of his leadership lessons learned. The one that's happening sort of in this moment is he keeps redirecting all the criticism that he's getting and all the questions from the board around like, well, it was a pretty big screw up the last five to 10 years and you were a pretty big part of that. So why should we pick you? He keeps redirecting that is, hey, the past is the past. We can't change the past. Here is my plan. Here's why I think it's right. Here's why I'm the person to execute that plan. Let's talk about the future and yeah, I understand where we are and like, I'm neither going to blame that on someone else nor say that was all my fault. We're going to talk about the future. It's a pretty powerful insight on a way to sort of redirect the conversation. I think it's one of the reasons why there's been so much talk over the years about potentially running for president someday. Gosh, that's like, that's the way to handle these things. He's a tremendous diplomat. Yeah. By the way, I did look up the reason why the Comcast bid failed and Disney stock price spiked was the tremendous success right in a row of finding Nemo and Pirates of the Caribbean, which came out in the same quarter. So revenue spiked 19% and caused the stock to change. Man, finding Nemo, picture. Pirates, the first Pirates of the Caribbean was so good. So good. It just went so far downhill. Oh, well, yeah. It's kind of like Star Wars. I don't remember there being other prequels. Anyway, okay. So the board makes its decision. Bob is CEO. He does a few things when he gets the news. He calls his parents. He calls his family. He calls his mentors. He tells them he thinks we calls Tom Murphy, I believe. But that night he calls Steve Jobs. This is such an amazing olive branch. And then he also just talks to Bob as diplomat, like Eisner and Jobs were like not on speaking terms. And on the very day that Bob gets the most momentous news of his entire career, he calls Steve Jobs. And he says, I just want to let you know, I want to come see you. I want to come talk to you, me, person in person face to face and find a way to make this work. And Steve is like super skeptical. But it's like, okay, yeah, you can fly, I guess. Sure, I guess. So that is exactly what he does. He goes up to see Steve and we'll take a minute and tell a little bit more of the history of the Pixar deal here, because I think it's important and we didn't do it on our episode. And it sets the stage so much for why the position, why Disney's in the position they are today. Yeah, this is really, this is the first step to, you know, first reconciliation with such an important partner in peace of the business and then acquisition, you know, and then, and then rebirth of Disney. Bob does go up to see Steve, but he doesn't start with talking about Pixar. He says, hey, I have an idea unrelated to Pixar. You know, we own ABC. We have all this content. We have movies and television shows here at Disney. And you know, you guys, Apple, you make such incredible technology. And like, this is the heyday of the iPod. And he's like, I have my iPod. I love my iPod. And I love, you know, what this has done for me as a consumer with my ability to consume music whenever I want. Do you think there's any way that we could do the same thing for our video content that we have, you know, within Disney and ABC? And again, remember, like all the media company executives at this point in time are like, tech is evil. They're going to pirate all our stuff. And Bob is like extending this huge olive branch to Steve and Steve's like, I have something I want to show you. And he does not show him the iPhone, which is of course already in the works at this point in time. But he shows him the video iPod. I remember when the video iPod was announced and came out and it was like, it was not that long before the iPhone. But it was a huge deal. It was kind of a strange product. Like I remember being very excited for it. I had to add pinned up on my wall of, it's like that there was the first black iPod, I think. And it was shiny and you could use it was a bad was bono singing on it was sort of this like blue light. I was excited for it, but it was a strange product once I got it because it was like, really, I'm going to watch movies on this thing that's like less than half this posted stamp. Yeah, it's really odd. Like I get it digital distribution of content and that's cool. I can do it anywhere, but this is like not. This is subpar. This is a halfway experience. Yeah. But it becomes such an important door opening to so much to come for Apple, Disney, Pixar, all of them because Bob season, he says immediately says, we're in. Steve, you have my word. You are going to get ABC and Disney content for your launch on this device. And that's just like an art of like that. Like you think about like the media rates and like, let's get all of our finance teams involved and our lawyers involved. And that's what that's what Steve was used to from Disney. He was like, cool, doing a deal with you guys is no promises in a year of dragging this out in every SWAT team of people being involved. And then it's Iger's signature that he knows that he needs to put on Disney to just come in guns blazing here. So when Steve at the Apple Keynote that summer, I believe with 2006 announces the video I've had Bob Iger walks out on stage and says all our Disney and ABC content, you're going to be able to purchase it. You're going to be able to download it. You can watch it on the go on Apple products. So this is the opening of the thawing of the relationships between Steve Jobs and Disney. It takes a little bit of time after the announcement for the Bob's going to become CEO before Michael leaves. And he officially is installed as CEO. It's about six months in his first board meeting immediately after he's officially CEO Bob Jess, then TFO Tom Stags and the head of strap planning Kevin Mayer to put together an analysis of Disney animation versus Pixar to present to the board. And Bob has an idea that he hasn't told anybody about. And they put together this analysis and it's I mean, it's brutal. Like as you would expect from what we've been talking about in the same period of time that Pixar has been operating and had their deal with Disney, Disney animation films have lost $400 million in aggregate. Meanwhile, not only has Pixar had hit after hit after hidden had made immense profits on their films, Bob has has Kevin and Tom commission brand research to ask parents in the US, what entertainment brands they think are best for their kids. And this is like Disney has always been the number one in this. Disney has been unseeded by Pixar. More American parents at this point in time believe that Pixar is the best entertainment brand for their kids than Disney. This is real bad. And so he presents this in his first board meeting and he reminds the board about, you know, the saying about his animation goes so goes the company and he proposes three options. One, we can keep the status quo. That's not a good option. Two, we can go out and try and hire new talent to run our studios and revitalize Disney animation. And he's like, I've looked. That's going to be hard. It's going to take a while and there's no promise of success. Like, or three, we can buy Pixar and he writes about this in the book. The boardroom just like erupts in chaos. Like this is a, you know, crazy idea board members are shouting. You know, people are like the Disney family members are offended. You know, this is crazy. But he methodically makes his case and says, you know, look, I don't know if it can happen. The relationship has been damaged. You know, Steve is Steve, but I think we have to try and do this. I think this can save the company. So the board does give him a approval to explore it finally. Bob calls Steve the next day and he says, hey, I have a crazy idea. Can I come see you about it? I just love this. Yeah. He writes the book. He says, I didn't yet fully appreciate just how much Steve liked radical ideas. Tell me now, he said. So Bob's like, he's driving in his car. He pulls over like into his driveway and he's like, calms himself. And he's like, I mean, I wasn't really expecting to do this now. He's like, well, I've been thinking about, you know, our respective companies futures. And what do you think about Disney buying Pixar? Steve is like silent for a moment. And he's like, you know, that's not the craziest idea in the world. And thus begins the negotiation, which actually goes very quickly. And within a matter of months, they've reached a deal for Disney to acquire Pixar for $7.4 billion, which was a huge, huge price at the time. And still unclear as we talked about in the episode, like financially did that deal make sense. You know, it's kind of been like, okay, but that deal saves Disney. And that sets them on the path to starting to revitalize the company, bring technology leadership back into the company, bring creative leadership back into the company. To the extent you believe that Frozen would not have happened without revitalizing Disney animation. And that wouldn't have happened without acquiring Pixar and bringing last year in cat mold or run Disney animation. Then yes, it's worth it. But for the Pixar movies alone, it's sort of an open question. It's interesting actually hearing the rationale for why it was $7.4 billion. The thing that made it really unique was it came with this full studio that number one had films already in pre-production. So there was like a roadmap of five years of Pixar films that were already all in development had teams, had directors. So of course, you can sort of value that asset. But then also it came with the, it was a machine that knew how to do this. And it had all the people and all the creative talent to repeatedly do it over and over again, which was a really interesting thing that made it different than buying Lucasfilm. Because Lucasfilm have any of that. Or League of DreamWorks Animation if they consider that or you know, bring different cats and bring back it. I was like, yeah, Pixar was a machine. They had their own process. And big team of people that were actively doing stuff. So there's another excerpt from the book here. I just got to say that it's amazing how much people anchor on price. So this $7 billion thing for Pixar, you know, when they're negotiating with George Lucas and he says, I want the Pixar deal. You have Iger having to come back to him and say, well, no, no, no, no, no, here's actually how it's very different. Like, you made these great movies a long time ago that have a really enduring universe that we think we can do something with, but like, there's not any of the infrastructure or any of the current development that the technology or. Yeah. Well, there's ILM, which is pretty amazing. Well, yes, but not, not anywhere near as valuable to Disney as Pixar's animation technology was Bob and his team at Disney make the case to Steve and to Ed Catmoll and John Lasseter about why this makes sense. He talks about this, go read the book about it, but you know, Steve and he whiteboarded out all the pros and cons of doing this deal and Steve, like, you guys already like lists like 100 cons and then they move to the pros and there's just like just a few of them, but they're like pretty big pros. And so the specific pros are like for Disney, Pixar and John and Ed can save Disney animation. They can bring the process. They can bring the talent. They can bring the technology, keep Pixar separate, but revitalize Disney animation. To Disney gets full access to the IP of all the Pixar characters and the perpetuity of all the content in the pipeline. And then for Pixar, they remove this existential risk about distribution and marketing that they were always going to have as a small independent studio. They couldn't just go off and be independent, like they needed a distribution partner. It was going to be Disney or it was going to be somebody else, you know. And nobody would be happy to have them, but it would have been someone. Yeah. And then I think this is really the, to the people aspect of this, probably the most compelling, especially to John and Ed. Bob says, you guys are going to get a much larger canvas to paint on. And like what better way to inspire people whose mission is bringing creative endeavors to the world than to give them that larger canvas to paint on. Bob talks about the lesson in his lessons at the end of the book of, you know, sometimes especially when you're talking about like big bold risky bets, there are a million reasons not to do something. But like if you have a few really, really good reasons to do them, that can outweigh any number of cons. It's interesting to zoom out a little bit and think about what the board was thinking and what some of the Disney old timers were thinking here. Specifically, Roy Disney hated this idea of working to go buy new IP and new franchises and wanted to sort of stick to this strategy that has worked, well, worked and not worked over the entire life of Disney of very much not invented here syndrome. Whereas you look at sort of where Bob Eiger comes from being a non-Disney, a query himself coming in through sort of a business that was not home spun in Disney, but was this enormous part of Disney's revenue now with with ESPN, you can kind of see why he had the conviction that, hey, this could work and it's going to change who we are as a company in some ways, but it could be really powerful for us. Yeah. So this becomes, you know, the blueprint in so many ways for the next series of acquisitions that will we've already covered on the show. We'll run through quickly here paying a very large price for a very unique asset, whether that asset is content or technology or both with the belief, which is not just blind belief, you know, they do Bob and Kevin and Tom, you know, with them and then the rest of the team over time do a ton of work to plan out and model the vision for what is going to become Disney plus the belief that together all these assets can be worth a lot more, you know, they go out, they pay 7.4 billion for Pixar and then in 2009, 4 billion for Marvel, which goodness again, like forget Disney plus, forget everything. That was like the purchase of the century given what would happen with the Marvel cinematic universe. It is funny on our episode, like we didn't see it yet. We didn't, we missed it. We missed it. Then they, they invest in Hulu, then in 2012, they buy Lucasfilm for $4 billion, which the reason it was for was because the Marvel price was the floor that George Lucas was willing to accept. Yeah. But you know, the Marvel price too, you know, Bob talks about in the book, that was crazy at the time, $4 billion for Marvel. You know, there was an interview, I can't remember if it was either an interview with Brian Roberts at Comcast or Bob talking directly to Brian. And he was like $4 billion for a comic book company. Like, like with that, you know, we're way past their heyday. They were doing some film licensing. The best characters had already been licensed out, you know, Spider-Man was elsewhere. Yep. As we're X-Men and it's kind of crazy that like this world were sort of like rich, potentially valuable IP had sort of laid fallow for many years. We're now in this era where it's all about having the best IP in the world and being able to make huge investments in that and then get huge profits out the other side. And I think it all goes back to this thing that we were talking about before where you have to run one strategy or the other. You're in the business of the long tail or you're in the business of creating the iconic thing that the whole world cares about at once. You know, it really manifested in Bob's strategy here of what are the most unique and iconic pieces of intellectual property and worlds and, you know, mythologies that we can really amplify. And the ability within Pixar to create new ones of those. So after those big three Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, content, acquisitions are done. The first piece of Bob's strategy, then they start to turn to the second piece, which is technology and specifically distribution. So there's a fateful earnings call in 2015, a couple of years after the, after the Lucasfilm acquisition where Bob and team, they're, you know, they're thinking about technology all the way back to his initial plan and they're thinking about the distribution piece of this. But ESPN starts to really show signs of weakness. They lose quite a number of subscribers, cable subscribers. And this is like the first in terms of, you know, actual numbers and chink in the armor of this colossus that is ESPN and really the entire previous way of business for cable networks and cutting of the cord for consumers. So in this late 2015 earnings call, they announced that ESPN subscribers are down and Bob and the team talked pretty honestly about like the existential risk from disruption and cord cutting to, to their business to oversimplify this sort of cord cutting thing is people are seeing Netflix and Hulu and all these things where they're like cool, I can get access to TV shows. Is it really worth me paying 50 plus dollars a month for this cable bundle? All I really care about there is live sports and freaking ESPN knows it by their carriage fees as we see in their economics. But people are like, I don't watch that much sports. And so like even though ESPN would probably, live sports in general would probably keep people, was the strongest tie to keep people on those cable networks for the people who were subscribing for the non sports things that are, you know, mostly available in these streaming services now, they're the first to leave. Yep. And of course, because ESPN was getting the money regardless, they're losing those subscribers. So the stock gets hammered down 10% the next day. And they realize this is a big wake up call to Bob and the team. They realize like we've spent the last several years fixing, you know, the content side of the house and getting part one of the strategy in place. We now need to like massively accelerate part two and prepare for a world where like pay TV and cable bundle and everything that that means not just for ESPN, but for all of our content and that piece of our flywheel is going away. They start looking around for technology acquisitions that can make this happen. And as we said, you know, they come close to a deal to acquire Twitter and interestingly like this, this never made sense. The idea was they were going to buy Twitter for the technology and the access to consumers and they were going to use it as like the distribution head for what would become Disney Plus. Doesn't make any sense. So well, it's exactly how a media company would think about buying a technology company. First, they're like, well, who's got the best technology and they're like Apple and Google and they're no, no, they're too big. They're too big. Okay. Next, rung down Twitter. It's a very blunt way to look at. We need technology. Bob talks about the deal falling apart because of the UGC content issues and free speech issues and the hate speech on Twitter and all that. And I'm sure that was part of it. But, but honestly, the deal just also didn't make any sense. And so what they do instead, as we talked about in our BAM tech episode, makes so much more sense is they invest in and then they acquire BAM tech, which is just a technology provider and the best in the business other than Netflix of delivering streaming content both for live sports and for their powering HBO now and for services like entertainment content services like Netflix, like Disney plus, like all these into the company. Yeah. And in Twitter, I mean, well, I think this is the my biggest thing that I want to talk about in playbook is sort of the vertical versus horizontal conflict where like if you're buying a business that already serves a bunch of other customers and has a bunch of other stuff that they do, buying them to just do your vertical thing would be tricky. Like on Twitter, what are they going to stop it from being Twitter so that they could make it Disney's Twitter and only distribute Disney content on this. It's just like this massive vertical horizontal conflict, whereas on in BAM tech, like sure, they get paid pretty good money to like power the tech for other people's platforms. That may or may not go away over time, but it's even though they're doing a horizontal service to the industry there by Disney using them for this intensely focused, verticalized capacity of distributing their content on their channel with Disney plus with the SPN plus with now Hulu, like it's not creating conflict. Yeah. Totally. So in 2017, the complete majority purchase of BAM tech, they own 75% of BAM tech. I believe the other 25% is probably employee equity and major league baseball. And the NHL owns a bit. Oh, yes. And the NHL because they did a streaming rights deal with the NHL. And interestingly enough, this initial BAM tech deal was done to power ESPN plus. They were like ESPN needs a streaming service and hadn't yet conceptualized of Disney plus. Well, they were starting to conceptualize them, but it was going to take longer because they when they do this deal, they announce on their earnings call after it that they are launching ESP. This is 2017 that launching ESPN plus with leveraging BAM technology the next year in 2018. And they are going to launch a as yet unnamed Disney content streaming service to compete with Netflix. We're launching ESPN plus and we're launching a Disney thing that's very similar. We haven't named it. Yeah, very cool. But they're not that cool. They also announced like, hey, you want to know how serious we are about this? We're taking our content off of Netflix. That's as our content agreements with Netflix expire. We're taking it all off. And this is all going to only be on Disney plus. If you're bored or something like this, this is actually a rolling to this in the show notes. The August 2017 earnings call is crazy. The amount of stuff that it has. It's, hey, 25 minutes ago, we just did this BAM tech thing. We're doing it for ESPN. We're launching ESPN plus. We're going to do a Disney thing and we're going to pull off of Netflix. It's like BAM, BAM, BAM, BAM. Yeah. And it was, I mean, this is huge about rights about the book. This was like a major turning point for the company and their mindset. Like they're like, no, we're all in on this. The street loves it. The stock is up significantly after the earnings call. Netflix stock drops 5%. And this was, you know, like Rower, I agree. And we'll get into Disney plus, ESPN plus and Disney plus here in a sec. But this was hard decision. For a bunch of reasons because who hates this, Disney's pay TV partners. The cable companies and the satellite companies that Disney's basically saying, hey, in the future, we're going to end around you guys. And you all sort of knew it was coming, but nope, it's happening. You know? Yeah. And we're going to end up with some of the partners now, but we did just announce that we have a 20 year vision to not be for a five year vision to not be. Yeah. Yeah. So that's number one. Number two, you know, Netflix, you know, again, Disney's a huge company, but the rights money that they're getting from Netflix, hundreds of millions, hundreds of millions of dollars a year, that is pure marginal profit to Disney. Like it doesn't cost them anything. They have already produced this content. They're just leveraging that content through an additional distribution channel. They're just getting pure cashflow margin from Netflix and they're cutting that off. To instead go spend two and a half billion dollars to buy BAM tech and invest many, many billions of dollars over the coming years to build up their own streaming service. Yeah. It's interesting to think about one of the reasons why the innovators dilemma is so is typically so unavoidable is because you can't, especially as a public company, get the leeway that you need from your shareholders to do something really risky that's going to take a really long time and it's going to cost you a ton of profit in the near term. And so this really is like hundreds of millions of dollars of pure profit that they're just like for going for five years for years to, you know, to come here. And how are the next set of carriage agreements for ESPN going to go with the pay TV providers when now they know that like they're going to be like, yeah, nine bucks. Yeah. I don't want to pay you that anymore. A lot of what it comes down to is do you actually have a leader who's going to get that leeway and that really long term thinking from shareholders to be able to sort of act like a start up while you have this business that you're trying to preserve the glide path on typically an executive wouldn't. I think it takes someone who's earned the trust like Bob had contrast this decision to the end of eyes nurse time at Disney. You know, again, I didn't do many, many great things, but the Ovid's decision, the feuding with Steve Jobs that, you know, it was all about like, I'm so great. And I built this thing and it's going to be the best forever as it is. And this is the opposite of that. It's saying like, nope, this precarious innovator die, you know, but there is one more thing. And that one more thing I think is actually, you know, both a huge piece of this and opportunity but also is pretty scary. And that is Fox. There's the one more acquisition of which is by far the price that they paid to buy Fox announced at the end of 2017 and then close in the beginning of 2019, 71.3 billion dollars. Many, many times more than all of these other incredible acquisitions all combined. Like this is a literally betting the farm on bringing in Fox. Now so what do they get for Fox? One of the news assets, so not Fox News, not the Wall Street Journal, none of the publications. It's all the entertainment pieces of Fox. So they get the movie studio. They get studios, which of, you know, both new slates of films coming out and the library, you know, Titanic, Avatar, all the great Fox films within the library are the rights to a new hope to the first Star Wars movie. Because remember, Lucasfilm had Fox was the distribution partner for the first trilogy. Star Wars fact time, the theme to Star Wars was actually composed in the key of B flat. I don't know if it's major or minor, but B flat because the Fox, 20th century Fox opener was in that key and it was meant to be the sort of like a natural lead in. Yeah. No way. I never realized that, but you're so right. That's the same key. Yeah. And actually John Williams in Empire Strikes Back got to re-record with his orchestra, the 20th century Fox intro to lead right into it. Oh, that's amazing. I wonder if now the Fox intro is going to come back to Star Wars because now it's part of Disney. Probably not. I don't think so, but. Probably not, but it could. So the other things that they get, so we mentioned a little bit of Marvel, both the X-Men and Fantastic Four movie rights were owned by Fox. So and those are key Marvel franchises. So that's now back in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They get a big part of the library for Fox's is television, not just film, so like the Simpsons specifically all 30 seasons of the season. 30 seasons of this unreal. Incredible. And then to the third goal of third part of National Geographic. National Geographic, yep, yep. But to the third piece of Bob's plan, and this hasn't been talked about as much Fox is a much more international company than any of the other US media companies were. Fox has huge content and distribution operations all over the world. Obviously Fox started in Australia with Richard Murdoch, but especially in India, where Fox owns Hot Star, which is the largest streaming service in India. I believe both for entertainment content and for sports, they stream cricket, which is cricket in India is like, you know, the NFL and the NBA combined in the US, which by the way, total side Indian Premier League cricket is very compelling content. I love watching it. Do you have a hot star subscription? No, but maybe with Disney+, I might now. They're getting a lot here, but $71.3 billion is a huge, huge price tag. And that was bit up from like 58, right? 52.4 was the initial agreement. And then Comcast, the old, I feel like Comcast and Carl Icon need to like do something together. We need to have Brian Roberts and actually we should have Steve Burke on the show. That would be amazing. Steve, if you're listening, open invitation, both you and Carl, what we'd love to have you at any point in time. But yeah, it gets bit up to 71.3 billion. And you know, so the thing that I wonder with that is, I'm curious what you think, Ben. This actually is a kind of different thing than the marquee acquisitions that have really made Bob's career. Yeah, I don't look at this as an IP acquisition or franchise acquisition in the way that those other big three were. I mean, this to me is, it's kind of more distribution than it is content. Well, I think there's, so here's my, my bull and bear case on this to pull it forward quickly, the bull cases, the launching Disney plus and Bob talked about this is, this is the stated strategy. And they want Disney plus and the whole, you know, ESPN plus and all that to be in the future, a viable competitor to Netflix and ultimately do turn Netflix. And so like Disney has all of this great content, but it's just Disney content. Like does Disney plus all of this Fox content? Is that enough now? And they make all of that exclusive to their streaming services and not on Netflix. Is that enough to really do throw it? Yeah, actually, you're right. If I should walk back my, it's mostly distribution thing. I think you're right. Because one of the things I've been struggling with actually about Disney plus is on December 27th, the last episode of season one of the Mandalorian is going to end. Will people stay subscribed? Like are they going to, what's next? And I think they've got plans to do 10 movies over the next two years and all these different TV shows. People are hungry for lots of content and does Disney actually have enough content and development to make this really compelling in the early days. Maybe Disney plus Fox over the next two, three years can make it something that feels really full and rich. That's the stated reason for doing this. I think the scary thing though is like, is this Bob and Disney falling victim to some of the things that brought down Michael of Empire building and the overreach and the Greek tragedy? The overreach. Yeah. Like, you know, and just reflected in the deal and the purchase price, right? Like the initial negotiated deal for $52 billion bidding that up to $71 billion. Like and Bob talks about in the book, like he felt like he needed to come in with a quote unquote knockout punch to get Comcast out and get the get Fox. Is that really the right thing? Would they really pay the right price for this? You know, so or could they have continued their march of acquiring different franchises for a billion here, a billion there and and come up with enough content to and it's not just enough content. It has to be the best content in the world that is the most celebrated and content that the world feels the most emotion around. It has to be that content and the teams and talent to continue to keep that content fresh. You know, they've already talked about that the state of the studio and the slate of films for Fox that they acquired is not in as good a shape as they thought it was. So you know, I think it's an open question. My bet is it will prove to be a generally good decision, although the $71 billion will look like a too high of a price tag. Yeah. I mean, I think that's probably fair to well, let's put a bow on Disney Plus and then we can come back to analysis and greeting. So one thing I wanted to point out here, so there's, well, first I want to make this point. So what we're talking about how after the Fox deal got done, he stood in front of a white board to sort of come up with a reorganization of the company. What does a modern media company look like? From 2005 to 2018, he said, this is the only time I've stood at a white board since 2005 with Steve Jobs. I don't know if that's hyperbole in the book or if I just fundamentally do not understand the job of a like global fortune 50 CEO that like this is not in their workflow at all, but I was like, whoa, that's a long time before white board and something out. And that's very different than my day to day. And so he talks about how he's whiteboarding out sort of this, this organizational structure for the combined company where you have a separation from technology from content. And you sort of have this physical goods thing as well. But think about technology and content where technology is in charge of distribution and monetization and content is just in charge of content. And I found myself sort of like laughing while reading this because that is the traditional newspapers organizational structure from way back when like keep the journalists doing their journalists thing. Don't bother them with this business model thing that these ad sales guys have to do over here. That fell apart in the era of the internet. It's just so interesting to see like call it bundling, unbundling or push and pull or tick tock or what's old as new again. There's lots of aphorisms for it that all means slightly different things. But in this case, it is mind blowing to me. And I think it's going to work that this sort of traditional newspaper or structure of separate content from the content delivery and business model around that content delivery in different different organizations. That's how it's playing out. Yeah. It also highlights like they put Twitter. This would not have worked at all. That or structure and this whole plan only works if the technology is BAM tech is a distribution rails technology, not a consumer facing like content and technology married together. So Disney plus April 2019 of this year, they do a big investor day to announce Disney plus Kevin Mayer, the long time head of strap planning is now put in charge operationally of running Disney plus running this new segment. That is the future of the company. And important to know like head of strap planning. So he was a deal guy. I mean, he was an analysis guy, a hard charging leader and a deal guy, not a creative, not from the creative side of the house. Yeah. So this is his big test and a lot of people think this is his test that if he passes it will be he will be Bob's successor when Bob has announced his retirement in 2021. The announced Disney plus all the content on it, the Mandalorian, all the Fox content that's coming on with the Simpsons, National Geographic and then the announced the price. And the crowd goes wild. 699 a month compared to 1299 a month for the basic plan of Netflix. Now of course, right now even with all the Fox content, Disney plus is still quite behind Netflix in terms of the amount of content that they have on there. This is a really, really bold price to go out to consumers with. And I'm sure they spend a lot of time thinking about this. But the aim is they wanted to set a price that they felt like they could get 60 to 90 million subscribers within the first five years. Wall Street loves it. The next day the stock is up 11% by the end of the month. The stock is up 30% after this announcement. And the service finally launches last week November 12th, 2019, my birthday. And it's a nice birthday present to watch the Mandalorian. Happy birthday. Watch the second episode. I do need to watch the second episode. And they get 10 million subscribers in the first week. We'll talk about this in the analysis. But so far so good. First 48 hours. First 48 hours. Yeah. Yeah. Do we want to talk about all the caveats right here? Let's save it for the analysis. So a very auspicious beginning that it is off to now lots of questions still remain in the future. But here we are now at the end of 2019. And this company looks so different than it did when Bob took over a CEO back then it was as animation goes so goes Disney. And the lion share of the revenue and profits came from ESPN courage and advertising affiliates but deals which were intermediated through pay TV providers. Best I can tell right now I think ESPN cable affiliate fees are responsible for somewhere around 25% of Disney's revenue. Yeah. So it's still a material amount in the old world. Even as we talk about betting the farm and changing the business model like this ESPN plus thing is not yet going well. They only have two million subscribers were over a year in. It doesn't have the content. It's not like you stop subscribing to ESPN and start subscribing to ESPN plus it's like sort of these. It's seriously handicapped. Yeah. So ESPN let's be clear on this. The affiliate fees with cable companies currently are still a juggernaut even though they're not the entire enterprise value the way they used to be. Yeah totally. But yeah you look at it today and you've got revitalized animation with Pixar and Disney animation. You've come now in a matter of days here you've got the Marvel Cinematic Universe highest grossing films of all time. You've got Lucasfilm and Star Wars and all the revitalization there all that on the content side. Now you've got the addition of all the Fox content and then on the distribution and technology side now you've got not only Disney plus of course but you got ESPN plus which we should talk about a little bit you know is handicapped. This is I think one where they've not played the innovators dilemma. I mean they're really hamstring here but like the current ESPN plus offering is just not compelling. It contains no major sports content. I think they're slow roll and that one more than they are with with Disney plus I bet it will continue to be hamstring until that 25% and again I'm ballparking there. It's not an actual number where it's my best guess by by running some numbers until that comes down to 15 10% until like it really wanes off. I don't think we're going to see them throwing you know their you know sports center football and NBA NFL and sports center on there. True. But it is set up to do that once that threshold gets crossed they have the technology in place to do it. And then they have Hulu which they now you know own two thirds of and are obligated to buy the other third. So yeah. That's that's a little bit of the head scratcher here. I think that's the one where they're like this is part of the strategy because it's also streaming. Yeah. It's like they get like if we could all play it all back I'm not sure that that they they would get. But I have to I got to imagine you know they've already introduced the Disney bundle of all three of those services for I think 18 and $19 a month. It's not a large leap to imagine that becoming a real bundle and all you know entertainment, sports and rates to not Disney properties all in one subscription that as consumers you know with that you're like wow well Netflix has a lot of stuff but they don't know sports they have a dwindling amount of stuff. And honestly if that's what 18 19 bucks that's not that much more than that where Netflix has raised their prices to for HD and definitely when you compare it to their 4k offering. Yeah exactly. So you know it's promising I think but as always there are a bunch of nuances to tease out here. So let's see where should we where should we start I why don't we go with we've I think rather than acquisition categories there's so many of them what if we do bull and baron narratives here. Yeah that sounds great. So the bull narrative is the image that I always picture in this sort of scenario is like the hero running out of the building that is exploding behind them and managing to like just barely make it out alive. You always say pull the e-break it has been around is you're about to drive off the clear. Exactly exactly. So in the beginning of this episode I proposed that combining content and distribution is a you know has failed before and may fail again. This has typically been for two reasons. One is both content and distribution businesses typically intend to keep horizontally operating but realize some sort of synergies by working together distributing the content that they own or on the pipes that they own. You can sort of see the problems that arise here you know do you prioritize doing deals with yourself or not. The second one being that the clash of cultures there's a clash of cultures and a misperception of value and that last part we definitely saw with the a well time Warner where you know creative houses are very different than the sort of low margin predictable distribution businesses. I think Disney actually has the chance to do this right. They aren't buying some other distribution company I mean they did buy BAM tech but they bought that for exactly the right reason they do nothing more than the school distribution technology. Exactly. You know it wasn't which a well was actually it wasn't distribution you're right it's distribution technology it's not like BAM tech already has all these relationships with consumers that Disney is just going to flow through to. Yeah I mean Disney Twitter I think there's a really good chance that could have been a well time Warner totally totally and they also don't have a vertical horizontal conflict here. The only shows that are on Disney plus our Disney I think this time really may be different. So that's that's my bull case that's the bull case well and I think the as we were just talking about at the end of history and facts there like okay roll the clock forward a little bit and it's 20 let's say 2024 that's the time frame that Disney is talking about in terms of their five year strategic plan here and say they put real ESPN into ESPN plus so the price is up and it's been inflation whatnot 29 bucks a month Ben I'm offering you all Disney content all Fox content all ESPN sports content and access to everything on Hulu which they have locked up access to at least I believe at least NBC content on Hulu as well as all the other you know small media companies that are that are on there as well 30 bucks a month for that versus to get a similar suite of offerings at that point time you're probably looking at probably close to 20 bucks for Netflix plus you know you're doing either YouTube TV or something to get sports like you may not even be able to get a lot of sports any other way is that compelling to you. Probably yeah I mean just think about like really at that point what they're offering is a true viable alternative to an old cable subscription or satellite subscription which was a hundred bucks a month and so now you're getting it on any device anywhere wherever you are for 30 months. So the fascinating thing is yeah that Disney may be able to re bundle and actually own all the content like that is that that is the mega mega bulk cases like imagine if you're Comcast but you actually own all the content that's flowing across all the channels as well so you don't have to pay out that cogs or at least the merchant associated with the cogs now take it one step further remember Disney was primarily an American company before they're doing you know in the pay TV bundle world they were doing great but they're going to do in all these carriage agreements with all these pay TV providers primarily in the US now with direct they're in every country in the world they're in India they're in China they're access to global markets the two access to global markets and so like yeah maybe they're only making 30 bucks a month per subscriber which is a lot less than pay TV was making with a hundred bucks a month but they're addressable market went from 300 million to you know three billion. The thing that I've been thinking a lot about is it's it's really the true brilliance of the Disney flywheel and action like if we were just thinking about this as a revenue transfer where we were trying to take that money that we would make by distributing that content on someone else's platform and then figure out are we going to make that money back by distributing it on our own and you know just charging people effectively what our margin would have been or what you know those distributors would have paid us that's the wrong way to think about it that's not the right way to sort of value this this streaming offering it's really about the direct relationship and turning Disney's hundreds of millions of sort of loosely connected I'll call them fans into real and actual customers with an actual defined digital relationship with an email address with data analytics with a way for Disney to reach out and actually communicate with those customers whenever they want however they want and not just hope that that they sort of planted some seed in their head that you love Mickey Mouse and now take it one step even farther of you know you are a Disney plus subscriber or whatever this bundle is called and you know you want to take your family to your local Disney park whether that's in Shanghai or Europe or India I'm sure they're working on something or the US and you show up and they're like Mr. Gilbert so wonderful to see you thank you for being a Disney plus subscriber for you know all the benefits you know like you can start to see this like really starting to make sense yep okay so that's a bull what's the bear well this quarter the direct to consumer plus international segment that is under two years old lost seven hundred and forty million dollars it is the only unprofitable part of Disney which if we look back everything is crazy it's not their operating profit margin something like twenty five to thirty percent most businesses but media networks made seven and a half billion parks made seven billion studio made three billion and here you're sitting here with nothing but losses and in this thing right now this comes from a great Bloomberg piece but there's an analyst at Moffat Nathan Sin that expects the the three streaming services to lose a combined eleven billion over the next four years and and finally turn it to profit in 2024 so a lot can change in five years both internally Disney and externally in global markets like let's hope they keep the the leeway that they need to make this happen I mean Bob's leaving in twenty twenty one so it's not like it's all going to be profitable and and a clear good decision before he leaves which I think is scary this is probably a good time to touch on it I don't necessarily think this this means that it isn't going well but when Disney said we have ten million activations in the first forty eight hours there are what seventeen million households that use Verizon that got a first year free offer and so however many of them converted you know I think there's been major discounts given or or or free trials given to people who are are part of the Disney existing Disney fan club so this ten million numbers a little bit of a silly number to base anything off of but it definitely makes everyone feel like it's going really well here in this first week yeah now I think this is super interesting like so Jenny and I are for eyes and wireless customers on an unlimited plan and so we got a year for you Disney plus so yeah for sure I signed up for that would I otherwise have paid to sign up for Disney plus I don't think so now the really interesting thing though is am I going to keep it when the year ends I think there's actually a really good chance that I might so I think this is actually probably a really it's a bold but I think it's a really good marketing move by Disney but yeah the ten million that's a helpful long the way one reason to doubt it too is I think Disney may be underestimating just how much content people need to stay satiated and new content it's a beautiful and amazing thing to have access to all these this entire back catalog of of all these really storied franchises but am I going to pay seven dollars a month to keep an option available to go and watch those things no like that's if I ever want to rewatch a star wars movie I'll just you know reactivate my subscription at any given time so they're they really do need to aggressively turn on a fire hose of content here I mean I'm thinking about canceling my Netflix subscription right now I use it to watch the office reruns and like even that's going to go away and so you know I think we live in this world where people are going to get more and more ruthless about am I really willing to give you money on an ongoing basis and are you really providing new value to me every single month to be able to do that yeah well and that's where for well over a decade two decades yes PN was the heart of Disney and I think that actually is that is the biggest chip that Disney has that nobody else has out there which is ESPN and sports not everybody cares about sports for sure but for people who do that is truly unique content that like you cannot get except the places that have the rights to show the sports and that is not Netflix and that is not YouTube well put do you want to go into into what would have happened otherwise I feel like we covered a lot of stuff along the way with Twitter and whatnot let's I have one positive on that so that other course of action here would be for if Disney doesn't do a direct consumer streaming thing and I touched on this a little bit but I want to like explore it a little more because I think it's important if they had said yes to everyone who wanted to distribute their content so it starts with Netflix and who knows sort of where it goes after that and Disney truly becomes content and then really lets everyone else do distribution Disney's business relies on the flywheel and always has an app re-streaming pre digital world they could have the flywheel going by going through distributors like cable channels and movie theaters but now in this era of email address logins on demand using data to profile customers Disney was for the first time facing true disintermediation if they didn't digitally own that relationship with their customers and if you watch a Disney movie on Netflix you'd probably be less inclined to buy that toy or go to that theme park so in short I guess what I'm saying is Disney's customers by becoming more explicitly the distributors customers if they had gone that sort of Netflix route could effectively leak out of the flywheel in a way that Disney didn't didn't have to be worried about before that sort of the additional bull case but I do think that what would have happened otherwise is forming digital relationships could allow for Disney to basically lose the power of their business model yeah totally agree I think that's why they they had to do this yep and it and it really comes down to that like that thing that honestly I did not realize until starting to do this acquisition but that parks resorts licensing and products makes makes twice as much money for them as as actual studio revenue yeah yeah that's their vote that that is is they can have adventures endgame high-scercing movie of all time but it doesn't end there like they get at least another trip around the bases with all the flywheel associated revenue from from those properties all right what do you have for playbook all right play I mean number one for me is the you know innovator die philosophy you know from rune our lich three ESPN through Disney and you know really has been Bob's story here we'll see how this goes but I'm quite I'm you know I'm what we'll get to grading it yet I'm optimistic it takes like courage fact what what was the apple what was the fill-shiller courage courage about that was the good old headphone jack dongle yeah it courage to remove the headphone jack which is laughable but like this takes real courage like for sure you're telling your most important partners we're gonna leave you you know within not tomorrow but within 20 years you're giving up hundreds of millions of 100% margin cash flow this is like a big risk but but very well thought out and I think the right one so I think that's so that's my biggest theme one that we didn't talk that much about on this episode that I've been noodling on is is this idea of like who's running the show and is it creatives and visionaries and and people who are thinking about innovation or is it people who are thinking about protecting what you have and I think for 97 to 2003 or so Disney was really in this sort of like protection mode it's like when you're playing poker and and you're up and you start playing some people play more loose when they've got a big chip stack other people go into if it's a cash game rather than a tournament going to value protection mode and and figure out how to not leave the the table with much less money than they currently have now and I think it was just this big mindset shift where they said no we we actually need to empower the creatives to do what they do best and and a big part of this and that's something we didn't talk about the narrative but under Eisner there was this big strat planning group that I got basically decimated when he came in and changed what they do and and said look you don't you don't have all the power anymore to decide what do what we do and what we don't do at Disney that's going to get deputized to to people who are who are running these businesses yeah I mean this was you know Kevin Mayer is such a important executive and has been under Iger you know it isn't many ways that you know seemingly heir apparent to him but his strap planning group under Iger became the deal group of making all this happen under Eisner it was the strap planning group was running the actual businesses and that was that was not good yeah yeah they went from like the if you think about it and like if you're getting acquired they went from both the deal sponsor and Corp dev to kind of just being Corp dev yeah yeah another one that I wanted to touch on here this is a great quote I think from Kevin Mayer in that same Bloomberg article that I referenced where he says if you want to understand everything in future Marvel movies you'll probably need a Disney plus subscription because events from the new shows will factor into forthcoming films such as Dr. Strange in the multiverse of madness and I think this is so I really like the Dr. Strange maybe by the way I think it's so good yeah yeah I think so too I think this idea and like obviously David and I believe it too because we created the LP show this notion that you can create an offering for people who want to go deeper and make that a subscription thing and make it so you can participate more in a franchise that you care about Disney's taking it even to the next level where they're saying look if you really want to understand like everything about this movie like you actually do need to be a Disney plus subscriber because the movie's not going to explain it all and and Disney plus will so it's like they're not putting too big of teeth into it where it's like the movie trails off before the climactic event and says catch the rest on Disney plot like they're not doing that but they are giving it a little bit of a bite where they're saying look like if there you got a great film that's going to make you really entertained and you're going to walk out excited if you care about knowing the intimate full story you you really do actually need to be a Disney plus subscriber yeah I mean how many times I do this all the time you walk out of a Marvel movie or a Star Wars movie you immediately go to Wikipedia and you're like I'm going to hold everything behind it and now Disney saying like okay you're still going to do that but you want to like actually see it and experience that like come to Disney plus I have like a whole the whole routine I got IMDB I read all the trivia I read the whole Wikipedia page I if there's a fandom thing I'll like you know the Star Wars want like wookie pdf or any of those and you start like there's a whole it's interesting actually there's these whole content universes that exist outside of the creators of the IP that now serve some of this need yeah totally the last one that I wanted to bring up is um why does scale matter so much and why are we in this era of scale and consolidation because the the comment that Rupert Murdoch made to Iger when they started the discussion was just alluding to the idea that hey you have the scale to succeed and thrive in a world where you need that and we at Fox don't we're not set up to do that in the way that you at Disney are and now sort of the way that they said hey we we we want to sell to you guys so why do you think that's so important right now well I have a bulletin bear case here so the bullet case is the same reason that is the stated rationale for buying Fox which is that like the scale is if you believe there are only going to be a couple streaming services that survive in the long run you need to have enough critical mass of content that somebody's going to be willing to pay you you know right now Netflix is you know the only one that really has this that stand alone as people are willing to pay for it like all right there's enough content on here not paid 13 bucks a month Disney alone probably with even with all the great franchises they have wasn't going to have that so I think that's and and Rupert saying like you know I mean Fox like we wouldn't like Avatar who's going to pay 13 bucks a month for Avatar you know my bear case here though is like I mean I used to work for Rupert right now like he's he's crafty he's widely like a fox especially given the bidding warrant how much Disney ended up paying here like was he really just trying to play into Bob's vision for the future and just like offload Fox for a boat load of money I think both things actually maybe true here like it may be the right thing it may be a good strategic decision for Disney and Rupert you know value maximized here especially given and we haven't talked about the whole family business drama dynamic around Fox but yeah that's my take I like it the only thing I'll add to that is that we've again moving to my bifurcated long tail and head of the curve thing we've moved into an era where the head of the curve productions are so expensive and they're like darn near sure things like when you go and produce infinity war like you know that that is going to be in the billions of dollars grossing and so you can spend 200 plus million dollars producing it and that's what these sorts of fill this that's what this category is now and a lot of innovation and creativity and trying new stuff has moved down to TV and these these OTT services it's like you need scale of distribution to amortize the cost of creating this content across so many people and this is the classic sort of Bentomson comment about the why Netflix wins versus anybody that's trying to be like Netflix obviously Disney pluses of different strategies they they are coming from a very different place but in order to finance the types of shows that Netflix is financing or to pay to acquire the rights of any given show it's a pretty simple model of like well how many paying customers can we amortize it across and that place a big role in this too yeah it is it's an amazing example of scale economy supply technology as well in the right cases okay I got one more real quick which is going to double as my car about is everybody go read the book go go read read of a lifetime it's it's so good and we haven't talked as much in this episode because this episode is about strategy and about Disney plus but Bob is you know we've alluded to him being a diplomat like the way he manages the way he leads is so inspiring and you know I texted a little bit with one of my good friends Ryan and friend of the show who who worked in Disney strap planning for Kevin mayor for a number of years and I asked him I was like what was Bob like really you know and he was like I would be in meetings with him and he would listen to me as intently as a 24 year old kid as he did to Kevin and he truly has like no you know very low ego very low pride he wants the best decisions and he respects everybody and so such as inspiring way to go about things it's awesome I had a different moment I'm going to follow your lead and do a theme appropriate carve out so I've watched the first couple episodes of the Imagineering story on Disney plus it is the sort of documentary behind the scenes of creating first Disneyland and Disney World and basically like showing a lot of behind the scenes stuff in areas that have previously never been filmed or at least never had the film released because a lot of it's from sort of the 50s and 60s of what it is to be a Disney Imagineer and how they built all the amazing things they did decades before other people sort of played with that type of animatronics technology or or yeah it's it's really it's really cool if you're into this episode and you read that book like it's the next logical thing to go and do all right Disney's got me I'm going to pay at the end of the trial with this we got a great at there before we before we go so we do so this is definitely one where we can actually issue a grade now we can only issue here's what we think an a plus would be and and how that could happen and why that would happen and you know here's what an F would look like we basically painted both pictures in the bull case and the bear case to me the way this truly becomes an a plus is if and I hadn't realized it until you said it David was but if Disney plus and ESPN plus and Hulu replaces the full gamut of the cable bundle which is a 70 50 to 70 dollar a month thing plus replacing some of the old sort of like going and buying VHS movies plus some of going to movie theater revenue because you know now with a great 4k TV at home if they're gonna you know drop the next they probably wouldn't do this for Star Wars but you could imagine some world when they like drop a Star Wars movie and you just watch it at home and well they put the live action lady in the tramp totally yeah so you know you think about it you got call it 60 bucks from the effective replacement of the cable bundle you've got replacing and I'll buy in a DVD a month so it's another 15 bucks plus going to see a movie you're you're in this above a hundred dollar a month category that you're paying and Disney owns all the margin there because they're the content producer and the distributor the bull cases that they actually pull that off and don't have to go to other people for the content or the distribution yeah the only thing I dad is my take this to an a plus I think that's like a take this to an a plus is is is international to like that that is not only just like Netflix that becomes not only true in the US but they go to every country in the world to and massively increase their tam for this one bear case I have and this isn't quite related to Disney plus it's more related to ESPN plus is in the same way that Apple will probably never release a product that is more widely purchased and with a higher profit margin than the iPhone Disney may never stumble onto a business as good as the carriage fees for ESPN to cable companies ever again like that that may have just been a complete and total anomaly yeah George Boedonheimer yeah and so I mean in in some ways it's like how can we preserve what we have with ESPN in the now that all the cards are changing around on the tits like we may not be able to like that but that's not exactly grading Disney plus and that's not exactly grading all these acquisitions including Fox to get us there what's the bear case for for doing Disney plus I think the F is that Fox becomes an albatross starts losing a ton of money the studios don't pan out can't maintain and produce new IP as a result Disney plus doesn't have enough compelling content to be a compelling alternative to Netflix yep the other thing that somehow could fail I don't know how this would fail but if they somehow by doing this actually decrease people's fandom to go to parks and buy goods and buy license but I don't I don't think that's I've seen so far probably yeah can't wait to go to Star Wars land we're planning a trip for next year oh nice yeah I think my next step is I'm in a Disney world since I was six and so at some point they're going to open a Star Wars themed hotel outside of galaxy's edge and Disney world so that'll probably be the time to go all right well listeners if you want to hear more required you should go and check out the four individual episodes on Pixar Lucasfilm Marvel and Bam Tech and thank you so much for the SPN any SPN that's right and thank you for being with us on this this journey to a galaxy far far away if you want to go behind the scenes on company building you should consider becoming an acquired limited partner recent episodes have included Chathen Pudugunta a general partner at benchmark and Tracy Lawrence the founder and CEO of choose so Tracy took us into the mindset of a founder growing a 300 person company in the food industry and everything that it is to found and grow a company and frankly deal with that as a human so to listen you can click the link in the show notes or go to slash acquired and all new listeners get a seven day free trial and if you stick around after this we're going to play a little excerpt from that episode here with that we will see you next time. Our main show with acquired is about these big splashy exits that you've heard of slacks shop of IESPN and a lot of our LP episodes which covers the nitty gritty of the journey along the way have been about one of these companies too like our product ops episode at Uber or growth at Airbnb and today we wanted to do an episode with a founder that is running a company that is much more emblematic of how most growth companies go most of the time you know getting a medium amount of press coverage keeping extremely focused and diligent putting in the hard work over a long period of time to build a sustainable and durable business and so our guest today is Tracy Lawrence Tracy is the founder and CEO of choose a 280 person company based in San Francisco that delivers family style office meals from the best local restaurants to six cities in the US. Tracy started to choose right out of college eight years ago in 2011 she's been named USC's entrepreneur of the year and raised over $30 million for choose from venture firms like Foundry Group which is how Tracy and I originally met at the Foundry CEO somewhat a few years ago. She has a really unique way that she runs and describes her company a love company that I'm really excited to dive into this episode so thank you so much for for joining us Tracy. For sure yeah let's talk about love. Yeah this is gonna be a first for acquired I think yeah this is great. So I just threw out some numbers and sort of like eight years ago 2011 raised over 30 million so how do you describe choose and can you tell us about the business today? Our mission is really to drive authentic connection and in the workplace I think that's the place where people are spending the most time and where it's lacking especially when you look at sort of people 40 years ago that were starting families you know in the early 20s and now you're starting families much later we kind of have this gap of time or what's like we leave home you know we leave home for work opportunities and then we're in our 20s and we don't start families to our 30s and work takes the brunt of it. Yeah especially you're in San Francisco. Yeah I think San Francisco is certainly in the US maybe in the world the city with the oldest average age of mothers when they give birth. I think it's San Francisco is well DC. Yeah yeah and New York right so a lot of the the big urban centers. So you know our goal is is really to get people eating together and and so we're partnering with over 300 restaurants and they're all local quality restaurants my aunt my grandmother and my mom were all in the restaurant industry and when I started the company it was because I was an event planner but I saw that office managers wanted access to great local food and they were sick of subway. So we work with offices you know over 500 companies across the US that are want to order great local food and we actually partner with the office managers of those offices and we build out sort of a calendar of meal programs and so instead of them having to order for themselves and kind of pick off of a menu or call up a restaurant like 90% of the industry is still calling up restaurants directly. We have technology that actually builds out the menus on behalf of our customers. So Tracy you started a love company what does that mean like you started a food delivery catering company but you also started a love company so where did where did those things meet. Yeah well love and food. I think when people say that like they started the company and they knew exactly what they wanted to start it's 95% of the times pulled. So when I started I you know as I shared you know I was an event planner and I saw this big opportunity and and I was like cool there's a market opportunity there's a need. I think there were two underlying factors I wasn't really being conscious of but they drive me to this day. One was a deep love for my city. I still feel strong affinity to downtown LA and and all of the food entrepreneurs in that city and that scales to every market that we're in. I adore the food entrepreneurs there. The second thing I actually discovered three years into it so oddly enough and Ben I don't know if you know this story but I ended up through a series of introductions meeting Jerry Klohnah of reboot and I got a sponsorship to go to his bootcamp. It's a CEO bootcamp it's like three or four days out in the mountains of Colorado it's beautiful and 15 CEOs from pre-fund raising to exit and earn out and not one of them was happy and you know I'm like 24 or something and I'm like what you're not happy and they're like yeah you know like and it's like okay wow it's not really outcome based and so we started to talk pretty deeply about our childhoods our pasts our motivations and the thing that came up for me was being bullied. I was sharing the story when I was 10 years old I used to be bullied so badly I would eat lunch in the bathroom stall and at that point I was feeling very emotional. I still get a little emotional talking about it and Jerry walks over to me and he looks at me and he just says what does your company do again and I said we make sure nobody eats lunch alone and in that moment it felt like 30,000 volts of electricity went through my body and I was like oh my god like I never put the past together with the present. I realized that I started to choose from a place of like deep love for that younger version of myself and a deep desire for people to connect together. All right listeners with that thanks again and we will see you next time.