Learnings from Disney’s Purge of 100+ TV Shows and Films
Patterns and trends emerge as content disappears faster than 'Elemental' box office
(Ed note: This is updated, edited and condensed from an earlier piece from Entertainment Strategy Guy’s own standalone newsletter.)
Last summer, when Warner Bros. Discovery started removing TV shows from (HBO) Max, people weren’t worried. Everyone blamed the famously cost-conscious David Zaslav, since he’d just taken over. Folks just assumed that this move was a cynical tax ploy from a famously cost-conscious manager, not a harbinger of streaming’s future.
But then Disney — led by beloved Hollywood CEO Bob Iger — announced $1-1.5 billion in “content impairment charges” in May. In other words, Disney would be removing content, and ended up pulling/removing more than 100 TV shows and films from Hulu and Disney+ last month.
Now it feels real, doesn’t it?
Since Disney made this announcement, I’ve wanted to dive deep into the removals, both from a strategy and data perspective.
Some of these shows were just basic cable doc series (think NatGeo’s Race to the Center of the Earth), or silly family-friendly reality (like Be Our Chef or Disney Fairytale Weddings, fun shows but not high art). But a lot of, if not most of the movies and TV shows were really high quality work by some very talented people. My editor/researcher tried to watch a bunch of the movies the week before they left Disney+, including The One and Only Ivan. From the concept to the special effects, he thought it was excellent, especially the acting.
This is why I write so much about “business models” and their unintended consequences. If Hollywood doesn’t have a great plan for making money, that results in fewer great things getting made and fewer people watching them.
The past few years look more and more like a content bubble driven by inflated expectations for streaming. As the bubble bursts, it makes me wish I had done a better job convincing people this was coming (and that our leaders saved the town from these perils).
With that out of the way, let’s get into my big takeaways on the Disney purge including:
Which genres got hit hardest.
The one production company that got wiped out.
How, of the 21 films that got removed (or were slated to be removed) from Disney+ and Hulu, NONE had debuted in theaters.
The plight of foreign shows.
The biggest Disney brands impacted.
Why I believe some of this is a negotiating ploy.