Bob Iger explains why Disney didn’t buy Twitter

Elon Musk wanted to buy Twitter. Then I decided not.

Bob Iger can tell.

In 2016, Iger, then the CEO of Disney, convinced himself that his company should own Twitter because it would be a great way to get Disney content around the world. Then, shortly before the 2016 US presidential election, he bailed out.

Iger already told part of this story, but it always seemed confusing to me: In his 2019 memoirshe said the boards of both Disney and Twitter agreed to the deal, but then he changed his mind due to the “malice” rampant on Twitter.

Really? Wasn’t the abomination obvious to anyone who used the service even for a second, let alone someone who was willing to spend billions on it?

But today we got a longer version of the story told by Iger at the Code Conference in response to a question from Alex Heath of The Verge. In this, Iger says that Twitter would be a “phenomenal” distribution platform for Disney, but it would bring too many headaches. Among them: bots. (Sounds familiar?)

Here is Eiger, in his own words:

“We were going into the streaming business. We needed a technological solution. We have all these great IPs. We were not a technology company. How can we bring this intellectual property to consumers around the world? … And we kicked tires right and left. We thought about self-development. Five years, $500 million. It was not about money, but about time, because the world was changing rapidly. And at the same time, we heard that Twitter is considering a sale.

“We immediately begin the process of seeing Twitter as the solution: a global distribution platform. It was seen as a kind of social network. We looked at it as something completely different. We could put news, sports, entertainment, [and] reach peace. And frankly, that would be a phenomenal solution in terms of distribution.

“Then, after we sold the whole concept to the board of directors of Disney and Twitter, and we are really ready to go – negotiations were almost completed – I went home, thought about it over the weekend and thought: “I” I don’t look at it so closely as I need. Yes, this is a great solution in terms of distribution. But it comes with so many other challenges and complexities that, as the manager of a great global brand, I wasn’t prepared to get sidetracked and deal with circumstances that weren’t even close to anything we’d experienced before.

“Interesting enough, since I’ve been reading the news these days, we’ve taken a very close look at all Twitter users – I’m guessing they’re called users? — and at that point, we estimated, with some help from Twitter, that a significant portion—not most—were not real.

“I don’t remember the figure, but we depreciated the cost a lot. But it was built into our economy. In fact, the deal we made was pretty cheap.

“Then, of course, you should pay attention to all this hate speech and the possibility of doing as much harm as good. At Disney, we’re in the entertainment business – we’re only doing good things, even though there are people today who criticize Disney for the opposite, which is wrong. It was just something we weren’t ready for and I wasn’t ready to take on the role of CEO of the company and I thought it would be irresponsible.”

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