Business, Politics & Society

Managing Industry Disruption: Disney Plus Case Study

Bob Iger

Lesson time 8:52 min

One of Bob’s superpowers is his ability to predict where the industry is headed. He talks about how Disney navigated the change to streaming video on demand, starting with ESPN+ and leading to Disney+.

Bob Iger
Teaches Business Strategy and Leadership
Disney CEO Bob Iger teaches you the leadership skills and strategies he used to reimagine the future of one of the world’s most beloved brands.
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- It worked perfectly. - How many times do I have to teach you, just because something works doesn't mean that it cannot be improved. - You are teaching me? What do you know? [MUSIC PLAYING] - It's incredibly important for anyone in a business to have a foot in the present and have a foot in the future. What I mean by that is it's important to be focused on day-to-day operations, day-to-day business circumstances and conditions-- all of the elements that, I think, are important to consider in terms of how to be successful at a given moment. Just as important-- to look as far ahead as possible. Often, a daunting task, particularly since things are changing so rapidly, but it's important to look ahead and have some sense for where your business might be going, what the business conditions are, or what business conditions might develop years into the future, so that decisions that you're making today are enabling you to continue to run your business successfully, you know, long into the future, even though those conditions have changed. [MUSIC PLAYING] I think the best way to embrace disruption is to admit that it's happening. It's not just a speed bump. It's just not something that's happening momentarily that you can ultimately endure and then see yourself to the other side. It's something, I think, you have to understand that it's here to stay. There's an inevitability to change, and I think today's world, there are plenty of examples of just how much change has occurred in the very recent past. And so therefore, we ought to expect that there's far more change on the horizon. Accepting that, I think, is the best way to navigate your way through it or with it. Disruption led by technological advance has had a profound impact on the entire media and entertainment business-- what's being created, how it's being created, how it's being distributed, how it's being consumed, and how it's being monetized. The business model that forms the underpinning of media and entertainment has all changed dramatically. [MUSIC PLAYING] ESPN, over the years since ABC and ESPN were acquired by Disney in the mid '90s, has been one of the most profitable businesses for the company. It actually, today, remains one of our most profitable businesses. But the growth trajectory of ESPN was substantially changed due to technological disruption. Basically, the means by which people are consuming and buying television channels is starting to change. And so what we started to see with ESPN is not only people accessing sports in different ways, but people being more hesitant to buy multi-channel television and ESPN because they had other means of being entertained. And that had a profound effect on ESPN's business. In order to contend with it, we decided that, rather than just accept the disruption and watch ESPN's business diminish, that we would embrace the disruption and take the necessary steps to make sure that ESPN continu...

Embrace risk, build resilience

In an era of disruption, Disney CEO Bob Iger led one of the world’s most beloved brands to unprecedented success with the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. Now, through case studies and lessons from 45 years in media, Bob teaches you how to evolve your business and career. Learn Bob’s strategies for expanding a brand, leading with integrity, and making big moves—from risk management to the art of negotiation.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I really enjoyed hearing his leadership process and how he tackles problems. Very good useful info that can be applied to many business situations.

This is a great class about the qualities of being a good leader. I would like to see more on how he keeps himself so centered all the time.

Great to hear real life experiences from Bob Iger and his learnings. Amazing!

Really interesting and insightful! I hope to work with or for my namesake in the near future!



Bob (if you read these) - your comments about reluctance to buy multi-channel cable packages resonated with me, and I would like to point out that it also applies to buying streaming services. When there is one awesome series I would like to view, I am willing to purchase access to it - but I am not interested in an ongoing subscription to a streaming service. In a funny twist, I think I'd pay more to access a specific show if I could avoid a subscription. Getting a season of "The Mandalorian" seems reasonable for $25 and yet I know that would get me almost 3 months of Disney+. Weird, but there's a market there that's being ignored by the push for subscriptions.

Marcus M.

I remember reaching out to the founder of BAMTech (now the person who oversees Disney+) the day after Disney+ launched. I was surprised to get a response from him and to start developing a really great relationship with his team. Disney+ is the inevitability that Netflix opened the door for. Blockbuster should have seen this coming and made a deal with Netflix many years ago. Now we have Apple TV+, BET+, Peacock and many others (Nickelodeon?) on the way. Unfortunately, all of them will not survive (I believe Apple, Disney, and Amazon will survive though, LOL). It will be interesting to see how all of these platforms shape up over the next decade and to revisit this in 10 (or even 5, or even 3) years...

Andrew L.

Lessons learned that disruptions require professionals keep current with technology, markets and wanted experiences. I am looking at that personal experience that appears to match the trends currently. Thank you!

A fellow student

There's a mistake in Iger's comment about the Mandolorian. He calls it the first "Star Wars Live Action film." There are 9 Star Wars live action films. He meant to say "First Star Wars Live Action Series" or TV series.

Kevin P.

Really appreciate the insight - I guess my question on this is how to create consensus when content is ultra-tailored? We are already seeing the effects of fragmentation, echo chambers and bubbles from politics to social media to journalism and entertainment - and how that plays out - often it’s not that pretty. Part of our ability to relate to each other relies on shared experiences. How do you create a consensus about the great shows in order to build up enough momentum to lift them out of the also-rans? It could be a great story but if it is awash in a sea of content and is competing with equally tailored distractions like social media, which don’t carry the same longer term value but are highly effective attention grabbers, then it feels as though we won’t be able to celebrate or learn as much from the best ones or be able to collectively build on their magic as we could prior to this decade. Do you think the fragmentation means we lose the ability to relate to each other as effectively? Or does social media enable the discussion and distribution of the better stories to propagate? Probably both. Stories like Dumbo, Cinderella, Snow White, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Toy Story, Monsters Inc, etc worked so well and lasted so long because: A) We all saw them - because B) There was plenty of visibility for each title (not many animated films were made at once and there weren’t as many other distractions through a screen as we have now). Disney seem to have addressed this well: Part of the answer may lie in expanding across mediums to reinforce the message and aesthetic in theme parks and merchandise. The message is then reinforced in surprising places to make it more memorable. Part of the answer may lie in creating new mediums for delivery - AR/MR/VR, first-hand physical installations, games, and hybrids thereof which are a much less crowded area. Maybe bringing the physical experience to the home - so when you visit a theme park it’s not only familiar but you may already have credit there. AI means the theme park could tailor itself to you in some way. Part of the answer is in telling, as Disney always has, universal or evergreen stories. Part of the answer is being very clear about what is top tier and what secondary. In addition it seems as though our ability to grow diminishes if we are only immersing ourselves in content that we have conceived of wanting to watch, or are presented based on past habits - don’t we then just iterate rather than actually grow? Maybe that’s the basis for Bob’s quote : “If you don’t go, you can’t grow”. I understood that as pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone to find out for yourself all the stuff the data misses and how it relates to everything around it - but that’s less likely if everything is handed to you on a digital silver platter as it’s harder to connect the dots because the context is missing, and the motivation to fill in those gaps is diminished because the data gives a false sense of completeness.