Bob Chapek on Disney Plus Pricing: 'We Still Have Some Headroom There'

Bob Chapek during Disney's 2022 Upfront presentation.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek during the company's 2022 upfront presentation. (Image credit: Disney General Entertainment/Lorenzo Bevilaqua)

Bob Chapek, CEO of The Walt Disney Co., spoke about the present, and future, of the media giant at the Paley International Council Summit in New York. Chapek said the Disney Plus platform is off to a strong start. Disney shared earnings November 8, and revealed that Walt Disney Co. subs are up to 235 million globally.

Chapek called the Disney Plus launch price for subscribers "an extreme value," and suggested consumers are willing to pay more. "We believe we still have some headroom there," he said.

The Walt Disney Co. added 14.6 million subscriptions in the fourth quarter, while Disney Plus added 12.1 million of them. "Given our three-year journey, we're extremely pleased," said the boss, who mentioned "a good pathway to profitability" for the streamer.

Disney Plus provides a wealth of consumer data, he said, which fuels the broad range of Disney products, including the parks.

Chapek spoke about an initiative that sees Disney Plus subscribers offered exclusive access to merchandise. He described the corporate portfolio as "the physical world and the digital world," and said the merchandise test "takes that one step further."

Chapek said "big blockbuster films are certainly back," but things are a bit "sketchy" for the smaller films. As Disney's forte is the tentpole pictures, it bodes well for the company.

Disney is pushing forward on a sophisticated production integration program that Chapek called "next-generation storytelling." It is carefully customized for the individual consumer. "It really creates that next level of storytelling that's unique to you," Chapek said. 

Also part of next-generation storytelling is a virtual experience where consumers can exit a ride to see how the ride works and what is behind the scenes, which Chapek hopes will prevent actual park-goers from exiting rides prematurely out of curiosity.

He also mentioned a focus on consumers outside of Disney's demographic sweet spot, including a "lifestyle community" for seniors in the Palm Springs area, where "they can live the next chapter of their lives in the Disney way."

The pandemic, he said, allowed the parks department to "almost re-engineer the parks business." It used to be one size fits all for consumers, he noted, but is increasingly catered to the individual. 

"We made what was already a magical experience an even more magical experience," Chapek said. 

On the cable side, Chapek stressed that ESPN is much more than a cable TV network, and is a "powerhouse brand."

"Don't just tie it to a distribution legacy system," he said. "Think of what the potential is for that brand going forward."

Asked about the future for Disney, Chapek said, "Storytelling, storytelling, storytelling" — and mentioned storytelling done in a more personalized way. ■

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.