Is Disney Leading The Way?

from the the-big-question dept

Did something click? Suddenly it seems like a few big media companies are at least dipping their toes into new media efforts that they never would have touched just months ago. That’s leading some to wonder if we’ve reached a point where some big media execs are finally figuring out what’s happening online after years of either confusion or purposeful mishandling. The one getting the most attention, it seems, is Disney, with its decision earlier this week to (finally!) put some shows online for free (but with commercials). It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a step in the right direction. While some fear that a half-step is worse than no step at all, that’s not necessarily true when you look at everything these firms need to deal with. They’ll reach where they need to go eventually. Fundamental competition and consumer demand will lead them down that path (sometimes willingly, sometimes kicking and screaming — as has mostly been the case up until now).

However, what’s most interesting is hearing Disney chief Robert Iger comment on the whole situation in a way that suggests he really is looking at ways to break down the troubling walls that have damaged so much of the entertainment industry in the 21st century. He clearly believes that the recording industry, for example, has gone down the wrong path — which he has no desire to follow: “The bottom line is they were not in tune with what their customers wanted and what the world was demanding of them and I think it hurt them significantly.” He also is coming to terms with the idea that not everyone will be thrilled by the new business models, and they’re going to have to upset some traditional channel partners or risk becoming completely obsolete themselves: “what we can’t do is we can’t let a fear of that relationship being challenged or creating tension with them get in the way of following consumers who are going to other places. We just can’t do that.” It’s entirely possible that he’s just saying this stuff, but so far, he does seem to be trying to live up to it, even if modestly. Iger is also the same exec who is pushing to release DVDs at the same time as movies hit the theaters, despite his peers’ desire to block such moves. Given how Disney has often acted in the past concerning online content and new business models, it pays to be skeptical — but Robert Iger’s moves and statements over his first few months in power at Disney really do seem like a breath of fresh air. Of course, all of this probably means that the other entertainment execs will start ganging up on him, rather than recognizing where they, too, need to go.

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