MONEY & BUSINESS: Disney counts on Taylor Swift, ‘Fortnite’ and football to boost returns
Disney CEO Bob Iger is making big bets on Taylor Swift, “Fortnite,” and football — investments he claims will fuel “significant growth” as the Mouse House scrambles to recover from years of lackluster results.
Iger on Wednesday made a series of sweeping announcements after Disney reported lower-than-anticipated quarterly revenue of $23.5 billion in an attempt to reverse the entertainment giant’s fortunes.
Among the most buzzed-about moves: Disney+ will be the home to Swift’s “Eras Tour” concert movie.
When the film — which has grossed $261.6 million to date at the box office against a $15 million budget — debuts on the streaming platform on March 15, there will be exclusive footage of five songs that weren’t included in the theatrical release or the on-demand versions of the nearly three-hour film.
“Cardigan,” the lead single off of Swift’s singer’s 2020 Grammy-winning album “Folklore,” will be among the exclusive tracks, according to the 34-year-old superstar’s Instagram post announcing that she’s “found a streaming home.”
Loyal Swifties have already taken to social media to say that they’re “signing back up for Disney+ in March,” which would help the streaming company after it suffered a 1.3 million-subscriber loss after implementing a price increase.
Disney forecast on Wednesday that it would gain as many as 6 million Disney+ subscribers in its second quarter, though Iger didn’t attribute the projection to “The Eras Tour” film.
Iger also announced plans to invest $1.5 billion in Epic Games in return for an equity stake in the company, which would give Disney access to its portfolio of video games — including “Fortnite,” which boasts more than 100 million active monthly users, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The North Carolina-based gaming giant is also behind other games inspired by the likes of Marvel, Star Wars, and the Lord of the Rings series.
The two companies plan to work together to create a “huge Disney universe” where consumers can interact with characters and stories from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and Avatar, Iger said.
“This marks Disney’s biggest entry ever into the world of games and offers significant opportunities for growth and expansion,” Iger added in a statement.
Disney also revealed plans to bolster its struggling sports division with the long-anticipated streaming launch of the flagship ESPN sports network — which will be bundled with Disney+ and Hulu and integrate features such as ESPN Bet, fantasy sports, and e-commerce.
Iger said the venture is expected to launch come August 2025.
The announcement came just one day after Disney said it would form a joint venture with Fox and Warner Bros Discovery to launch a streaming sports service that would combine their broad portfolios of professional and collegiate sports rights as well as their networks, including ESPN, Fox Sports 1, and TNT.
Retired University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban is set to join ESPN as an analyst on its “College GameDay” program and contribute to coverage of the NFL Draft, Disney said following its quarterly earnings.
When asked if the pop culture-centric initiatives would help placate Nelson Peltz — the activist investor who’s been spearheading a proxy campaign against Iger — the Disney chief said its quarterly results and new initiatives showed a team that was motivated, focused, and “very optimistic.”
“The last thing that we need right now is to be distracted in terms of our time, our energy, by an activist or activists that, frankly, have a completely different agenda, and don’t understand our company, its assets, even the essence of the Disney brand,” Iger told CNBC.
A spokesman for Peltz’s Trian Fund Management told The Post of Disney’s earnings: “It’s déjà vu all over again. We saw this movie last year and we didn’t like the ending.”