End of An Era: Iger Replaces Eisner at Disney

05 October 2005

For all the controversy that surrounds departed Walt Disney Company ceo Michael D Eisner, few would dispute he brought a colorful Hollywood management style to an increasingly grey corporate world.

This week sees the departure of the monstre sacré who two decades back hauled Disney out of deep financial waters, then proceeded to bestride its affairs - for better and for worse - until March 2004 when a shareholder revolt led by Roy E Disney and Stanley Gold deprived him first of the Mouse House chair and later precipitated his early retirement.

This week, the first in the post-Eisner era, sees his successor, former president Robert A Iger, park his posterior in the ceo's hotseat to face the challenge of the online age while an army of haruspices offers him instant analysis and advice.

"The biggest challenge for all media companies today, including Disney, is how they move in the online world," opines Reed Phillips of media investment bank DeSilva & Phillips. "The companies that can't make the transition [may] in five to ten years be obsolete."

Sanford C Bernstein's Michael Nathanson also demonstrates his incisive insight: "There are challenges emerging that will test Bob Iger," he warns.

Meantime, Ad Media Partners' Mark Edmiston fine-tooth combed his crystal ball to come up with this earthshaking prognostication: "Rather than trying to be even broader in traditional media, you'll see these entertainment media companies becoming more focused."

On the digital front, Iger has already ignited a fierce debate by suggesting he might slash the present interval between a movie's theatrical run and its release on DVD. This would help battle piracy and control marketing costs, he argues.

But theater owners are outraged that Iger has addressed such a thorny issue. Comments media analyst Hal Vogel: "This is a delicate dance. But it's something that should be discussed openly."

And the man himself?

Iger believes Disney must prepare for technologies that give customers control: "We see a world in which consumers are behaving very differently in terms of how they access content.

"Consumers are going to demand far more customization, and they are going to put demands on how, when, where and how much they consume in media."

Data sourced from USA Today Online; additional content by WARC staff