When Disney brought Bob Iger back as CEO last November, he brought with him a sense of hope that many had been missing. Iger’s predecessor (and successor) Bob Chapek was seen by some as the CEO who raised prices (not unique to Chapek, for the record), got rid of free FastPasses, and took the Magical Express away from us.
So when the much-loved Iger returned, fans were ready for changes — and changes we got. But, even Iger can’t stop a looming potential recession from happening and recently said that Disney is not recession-proof — meaning anything from your Friday night Disney+ movie lineup to your next trip to the parks could be different.
Bob Iger recently participated in a Q&A session at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference. During his interview, Iger was asked about various topics he has to deal with as CEO, like guest satisfaction, park pass reservations, and even a foray into sports betting.
Iger was asked about dynamic pricing, which Disney has implemented on a variety of aspects of the park experience — from Genie+ surge pricing to park-specific pricing and more. More specifically, a question was posed about whether or not dynamic pricing could help Disney navigate a recession.
Based on Disney’s most recent earnings report, revenue for Parks & Experiences is up by 21% — in Q1 2023, that meant a whopping $8.7 billion for the company.
Disney cited that the income growth is due to “higher volumes and increased guest spending, partially offset by cost inflation, higher operations support costs, and increased costs for new guest offerings.” The report also cited that Genie+ and Lightning Lane contributed to the increase in guest spending.
It’s also quite possible that Disney parks are propping up other areas of the business that aren’t doing so hot.
During the same earnings call, we learned that Disney+ had lost a significant amount of subscribers and was operating at a loss of $1.05 billion. Both Iger and CFO Christine McCarthy have reiterated that Disney+ was not expected to be profitable until 2024, and they stand by that goal.
In response to the question posed at the Morgan Stanley Conference, Iger replied, “We’re not recession-proof.” He said that experiencing Disney parks is not something that families give up right away — that it’s something families “aspire” to do. According to Iger, Disney has to make the experience and guest satisfaction “good enough” that they want to return, even in the face of a potential economic downturn.
He continued by saying that there’s nothing from a “dynamics perspective” that would suggest cost inflation would have any real significant impact on the company.
But for now, Disney’s streaming service is hemorrhaging money and Iger has already spoken up about plans to rectify that. Improving streaming at Disney is Iger’s number one priority, specifically when it comes to Disney+, but also with Hulu and ESPN+ too.
The new organizational structure Iger implemented aims to help with that, by relinking the creative process with the financial results. Disney will be focusing on its core brands and franchises (Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel) which have delivered higher returns in the past.
This new content curation already sounds like Disney is trying to save money with content production and could continue — or even be more aggressively pursued — in the face of a recession.
When it comes to the parks, though, just because Iger isn’t worried about a recession certainly doesn’t mean it won’t have an impact on Disney guests. The cost of goods and services has been rising thanks to higher-than-average inflation rates, and that might mean people will be quick to seriously think hard about whether or not a trip to Disney World still fits into the budget.
And although we can’t (and don’t!) know for sure, a recession could impact Disney parks in more ways than you might think.
If Disney is looking for ways to save money when it comes to park expenses, that could translate to price increases from the beginning to the end of your trip. Tickets, hotels, and food costs might rise, along with extras that might not immediately come to mind like Genie+ and PhotoPass.
Not only that but with Iger’s announcement that Disney is reducing its workforce by 7,000 jobs before being in a recession, we could see potential layoffs continue.
Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products chairman Josh D’Amaro said the 7,000 jobs did not include those in “hourly frontline roles in operations” meaning park employees, but if the economy tanks — all bets could be off. While this is pure speculation, a reduction in the workforce could lead to unavailability in the parks and resorts.
If Disney doesn’t have enough staff to operate certain restaurants or shops, they could close early or fail to open up altogether — something we became quite familiar with during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We could also see a food or merchandise shortage based on availability or supply chain issues, along with tours, extras, and special experiences scrapped.
Plus, remember all those changes we briefly mentioned? Those could be some of the first to go. Iger recently got rid of overnight parking fees at Disney World Resort hotels, and introduced free PhotoPass downloads with the purchase of Genie+, along with adding more lower-price ticket days in Disneyland. If Disney is “hurting” for money, perks like this could go away altogether.
Of course, according to Iger, there’s no reason to believe that Disney will be significantly impacted by any sort of recession — but unless he can predict the future, we’ll just have to wait and see. For now, it seems like it’s full steam ahead with projects and expansions around the Disney parks, and we’ll be there for it all.
For the lastest Disney news on streaming, theme parks, and beyond, be sure to stay tuned to DFB.
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The post Bob Iger Says Disney Is NOT Recession-Proof. So What Could Change? first appeared on the disney food blog.