Iger Let The Battle (With Cable) Begin
Disney CEO Robert Iger is plunging into the broadcast networks' battle with cable companies to secure increased "retransmission consent" fees for Disney's ABC television network and its owned stations. Speaking during a conference call to discuss the company's latest quarterly results, Iger said, "We believe it would be appropriate to seek cash for retransmission consent and we believe the same would be the case for our affiliates." Iger would not state how much ABC intends to demand from cable companies but clearly he had his mind on the deal worked out between Fox Broadcasting and Time Warner Cable last month. (Fox reportedly received an increase of around 50 cents per subscriber, escalating to $1.00 in the final year of a six-year deal.) "I won't say how much or describe the discussions we are having with the distribution community," Iger said, "but clearly there is a trend we are observing that we fully intend to participate in." Iger insisted that he was "pretty resolute" in his determination to battle the cable companies, adding "It clearly would not be our preference to see our signal taken down, and we will do whatever we possibly can through negotiation to avoid that, we also believe we have an obligation to derive value from great investment we've made in these programs, whether they are local in nature or national in nature." Iger's comments came against a background of solid results for both Disney's ABC broadcast network and its cable networks during the last quarter. ABC's operating income was up 30 percent from the year-ago quarter to $180 million on revenue of $1.5 billion -- up 5 percent from last year. The Disney cable networks, which include ESPN, the Disney Channel and ABC Family, posted a 5 percent increase in operating income to $544 million on revenue of $2.7 billion, up 8 percent from the same quarter last year.