Bob Iger Calls Apple M&A 'Pure Speculation,' Says Disney Must Now Focus on Streaming Profits, Not Scale

Disney CEO Bob Iger
(Image credit: Disney)

Making his most expansive (semi-) public comments yet since reclaiming the chief executive role from Bob Chapek last week, Bob Iger assured a gathering of Disney employees Monday morning that a rumored buyout of the media conglomerate by Apple is "pure speculation." 

“We never comment about acquisitions or divestitures," Iger said. "You can quickly get into a lot of trouble there, and I don’t want to leave this job and end up in jail, actually."

Iger also stressed that Disney must now focus on improving the monetization of its streaming portfolio and less on building scale. 

Meanwhile, disabusing anyone from the notion that Disney will embark on a retreat to traditional media formats similar to the path taken by David Zaslav and Warner Bros. Discovery, Iger conveyed that he's doubtful about the remaining future of linear television. 

And a recently imposed hiring freeze will not be lifted in the near-term future, he added. 

Also read: Now That Bob Iger Has Taken Over, Is This the End of Disney’s Streaming-First Strategy? (Bloom)

The comments were leaked during a 9 a.m. Burbank-time "town hall" meeting at Disney headquarters, with leaks gathered via Twitter and CNBC, among other media platforms. 

Trying to establish a bit of levity, Iger joked that his wife, USC Annenberg dean Willow Bay, asked him to return to the Disney CEO role in order to distract him from a U.S. Presidential run. 

Disney made a shocking announcement eight days ago that the popular Iger, now 71, would return as CEO, while ousting the man who replaced him in the top role nearly three years ago, Bob Chapek. 

The Disney board's decision came just days after Chapek reported industry-leading scale for Disney streaming services, with Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus combining for 235 million subscriptions worldwide. 

But that reach has come with a price -- Disney also announced losses of nearly $1.5 billion in the third quarter on building its direct-to-consumer platforms. 

Iger's first move as restored CEO was to fire Kareem Daniel, who headed a centralized reporting structure for Disney's creative efforts. Iger said on Monday that it will take time to develop a new blue print. He said he's working on that with Disney's chairman of general entertainment content, Dana Walden; Disney Studios head Alan Bergman; ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro and CFO Christine McCarthy. ■

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!