Congratulations to Disney CEO Bob Iger who has been named Time businessperson of the year.
Not since somebody figured out that you could attach two black plastic disks to a skull cap and make everyone look like Mickey Mouse has a pair of ears sent such a buzz through a media executive. The new set were green, wing-shaped and attached to a baby space alien. The instant Disney CEO Bob Iger saw them, his heart leapt.
“As soon as those ears popped up from under the blanket, and the eyes, I knew,” says Iger, recalling when he first saw footage of Disney’s newest bankable piece of intellectual property, known to the world as Baby Yoda. He likens the feeling to when he was running ABC’s prime-time TV division and 16-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio showed up on Growing Pains. The next moves were obvious: start production on little green dolls and theme-park rides and lunch boxes, then throw open the vaults and clear space for more cash.
But Iger is the kind of guy who, if given the marshmallow test, would not only decline to eat the marshmallow, but persuade everyone else to sell him theirs and corner the market on S’mores. So he made a different call: no Baby Yoda merch yet. The cuddly alien was the heart of the new Star Wars–themed series The Mandalorian. That show was the anchor of Disney’s new streaming service Disney+, and Iger would not spoil the first episode’s big reveal.
As history will show, the auricles delivered. Disney+ signed up 10 million people by the day after its Nov. 12 launch. It is not yet a threat to the big tech companies that dominate the stream: Netflix has 158.3 million subscribers, Amazon Prime has 101 million, and Google’s YouTube has about 2 billion users a month. But if streaming is the future of entertainment, Disney—the ultimate legacy player—now has a credible vessel in which to get there.
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