Elon Musk wasn’t the only potential Twitter buyer who was turned off by the bots.
Former Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed earlier this week at Vox Media’s Code Conference in Los Angeles that the company was close to acquiring the social media platform in 2016, but bailed after realizing “a substantial portion” of active profiles on the platform “were not real.”
He explained that Disney’s interest in the company was to leverage its technology to utilize Twitter as a global distribution platform the Mouse House prepared to move into the streaming world.
“We needed a technology solution,” Iger said, according to Vox. “We have all this great IP. We weren’t a technology company. How do we get that IP to consumers around the world?”
Creating their own platform would have cost $500 million and taken five years to complete.
“It wasn’t the money, it was the time, because the world was changing fast,” Iger said. “And at the same time, we heard that Twitter was contemplating a sale.”
Iger explained that Disney didn’t see Twitter as a social media platform. “We were viewing it as something completely different. We could put news, sports, entertainment, reach the world. And frankly, it would have been a phenomenal solution, distribution-wise.”
Iger and his team had convinced both the boards at Disney and Twitter that it was a good idea, and the acquisition was moving forward. But something wasn’t sitting quite right with Iger.
“I went home, contemplated it for a weekend, and thought, ‘I’m not looking at this as carefully as I need to look at it.’ Yes, it’s a great solution from a distribution perspective. But it would come with so many other challenges and complexities that as a manager of a great global brand, I was not prepared to take on a major distraction and having to manage circumstances that weren’t even close to anything that we had faced before.”
Iger had previously stated in his 2019 memoir that the “nastiness” of Twitter deterred Disney from acquiring the media monster, but elaborated at the conference that the distastefulness associated with the Twitter experience was just the beginning.
“Interestingly enough,” he said, “because I read the news these days, we did look very carefully at all of the Twitter users—I guess they’re called users?—and we at that point estimated with some of Twitter’s help that a substantial portion—not a majority—were not real. I don’t remember the number but we discounted the value heavily. But that was built into our economics. Actually, the deal that we had was pretty cheap.”
He continued, “Then you have to look, of course, at all the hate speech and potential to do as much harm as good. We’re in the business of manufacturing fun at Disney—of doing nothing but good, even though there are others today that criticize Disney for the opposite, which is wrong. This was just something that we were not ready to take on and I was not ready to take on as the CEO of a company and I thought it would have been irresponsible.”
Iger the reins to Disney’s current CEO Bob Chapek in 2020, and served as mega-corp’s executive chairman to oversee the transition until he left the company entirely by the end of 2021. Currently, Iger sits on the board of avatar technology company Genies.
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