Bob Iger Admits ‘Challenged’ Linear Ad Market but ‘Bullish’ on Overall Outlook: ‘Not as Bad as Some People Think It Is’

Disney CEO Bob Iger noted Wednesday that the linear advertising market may not be “as strong as we would like it to be” but “it’s certainly not as bad as some people think it is,” standing in contrast to Warner Bros. Discovery’s gloomier outlook earlier in the day.

The comments came during the company’s fourth quarter earnings call for 2023 and stand in contrast to Warner Bros. Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels’ take on the ad landscape in their own earnings call Wednesday.

“In terms of advertising, we are actually finding that linear is a little bit stronger than we had expected it would be. It’s not back as much as we would like, it’s still challenged, but it’s not as bad as it had been. So we’ve seen some slight improvement,” Iger said. He went on to note that while the tech sector is “still somewhat weak,” overall advertising has “improved.”

“So as we look at the advertising marketplace right now, while it’s not as strong as we would like it to be, it’s certainly not as bad as some people think it is, and it’s working for us,” Iger said.

During a previous interview, Iger noted that the company is now using tools in Disney+ to provide advertisers with better targeting. The corporate head went on to call the tools available on new platforms “an advertiser’s dream” and praised Hulu’s “extremely robust advertising engine,” calling it “one of the best in the business, if not the best.” He also noted that sports has been “very, very strong” in general.

“We know that the more data, the more detail, the more context, the more targeting we can provide, the better off we’ll be,” Iger said. “So actually, that combination of Hulu and Disney+, with some of the tools that we put in place, is going to give us the ability to have a blended CPM, grow engagement [and] grow advertising.”

“So we’re quite bullish about our position, media-wise, in an advertising marketplace,” Iger added.

Warner Bros. Discovery didn’t share Disney’s optimistic outlook on linear ads when it reported its earnings earlier in the day.

“It is becoming increasingly clear now that, much like 2023, 2024 will have its share of complexity, particularly as it relates to the possibility of continued sluggish advertising trends. To that point, while streaming advertising remains robust, the state of the overall linear ad market during the second half of this year has been disappointing,” CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels said during the company’s earnings call. “Looking ahead, while it is early, the timing of an ad recovery is currently difficult for any of us to predict with any conviction.”

During the same call, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav praised Iger for the resolution of the Charter Communications-Disney dispute that occurred earlier this year. Specifically, Zaslav called the deal a “very, very interesting bridge to more scale, lower churn and more stability to linear. We’ll have to see it certainly as a positive.”

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