Over 2,500 Disney employees are expected to lose their jobs as the media giant struggles to adapt to a changing entertainment landscape. This is the third round of layoffs in the past few months, following the cuts in March and April of 2022 that saw around 4,000 employees lose their jobs.
The job losses are part of a restructuring effort that Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, announced back in February that aims to cut $5.5 billion in costs. The restructuring will see a reduction in marketing operations of 50% and decreased spending across technology, procurement, and other areas, totaling 20%. The remaining 30% of the cuts will be borne by labor.
Disney’s struggle to adapt to the changing entertainment market is symptomatic of the wider industry where streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have consistently gained ground in recent years. Consumers are increasingly turning away from traditional cable and broadcast television in favor of streaming services with customizable programming.
In response, these streaming services have invested heavily in original shows and movies, creating an unparalleled demand for content. Meanwhile, traditional studios that rely on theatrical box office success and cable revenue have struggled.
Disney is a major player in both the traditional and streaming entertainment landscape, but the company has come under pressure to adapt and compete. In 2019, Disney launched its Disney+ streaming service, which offers a range of its classic and newer content. The service has been a success, with over 100 million subscribers worldwide.
However, the development of Disney’s streaming service has not come without challenges, some of which are financial. Creating quality content is expensive, and Disney has had to invest heavily in original programming to remain competitive. Additionally, Disney has seen a decrease in its revenue streams from theme parks and cruise lines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In February 2022, Bob Iger announced ambitious cost-cutting measures that aimed to streamline the company and help it adapt to the changing entertainment landscape. The measures included a reduction of approximately 30,000 employees globally, with 2,000 of those job losses at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California.
At the time, Iger said the cuts would allow Disney to “return greater authority to our creative leaders and make them accountable for how their content performs financially.” He also promised that the restructuring would enable Disney to invest more in content creation, particularly for Disney+.
However, the job losses have not been without controversy. Unions have criticized the company, arguing that Disney has prioritized shareholder value over the needs of its workers. The company has also faced lawsuits over allegations that it has failed to pay overtime to its workers.
Disney’s struggle to adapt has not been helped by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the revenue losses from theme parks and cruise lines, the pandemic has had a wider impact on the entertainment industry, with many films and TV shows forced to delay production or release schedules. Many theaters were also closed temporarily, and those that are open are operating with reduced capacity, impacting the revenue stream for studios.
The challenges have been particularly acute for traditional studios, where long lead times for production and the need for large revenue streams from theatrical box office success and cable revenue have made it more difficult to adapt to the changing entertainment landscape.
As Disney focuses more on Disney+ and other streaming services, the company will need to continue investing in original programming to remain competitive. With the traditional box office and cable revenue streams dwindling, streaming services have become a crucial new avenue for revenue growth.
However, streaming services have to create their own content to remain competitive, and the costs of developing quality content are high. This leaves companies like Disney in a bind, where they need to prioritize investment in content while also cutting costs to meet shareholder expectations.
The challenge for Disney, and other entertainment companies, is to find a way to adapt and thrive in a changing landscape while also remaining true to their creative vision. How they navigate the challenges ahead will determine their success in the coming years.