Disney's CEO Bob Iger let something interesting slip yesterday: Disney might be planning a subscription-based Web site offering movies, TV shows, and games. It looks like Disney, once a staunch DRM advocate, might really embrace the Web.
Of course Disney's been exploring the Internet-distribution model through partnerships with Hulu and iTunes, but a subscription-based Disney Web portal is a totally different beast. Speaking at the Fortune Brainstorm: Tech event yesterday, Iger more or less directly confirmed the plans by saying, "The notion of going online at some point as a subscribe-to, robust entertainment experience is pretty attractive to us ... We are developing such an experience." Though he declined to illuminate those comments any further, Iger did unashamedly reveal the motives behind the idea: cash. "Unfortunately, I didn't come up with YouTube" he noted, adding that its owners received a serious "chunk of change"—$1.65 billion, to be precise—on its sale to Google.
But then Iger made a horrid, Murdoch-esque slip-up, when he added, "There's plenty of room for people to spend more money on things that they're doing online." Say what, Bob? You think, like Rupert, there's wiggle room in the Internets for you to charge people more for your content? Hopefully you'll be planning to add extra value to the content for the privilege of paying Disney more money. And that's not all. Iger also intimated the system would use behavioral tracking to optimize its services to its users...the related privacy issues don't really bother kids, according to Bob.
It's fascinating: Iger hints that Disney's really thinking of going online in a big way, exposing itself much more to the so-called dangers of piracy compared with a physical distribution system such as DVD, then suggests it's not necessarily going to be cheap. This would, I suspect, increasingly tempt people to consider less legal ways to get hold of Disney content. And then he hints that his company will take a headstrong view on customer monitoring, because the young folks have grown up in a world where it's the norm. Careful Bob: That's the slippery slope that ends at 1984. And that's not a Disney movie.