Viewers today “don’t just want to sit in a living room on a couch and watch our product on a fixed screen on the wall with a remote control in their hand,” Iger told analysts Thursday on a conference call. “They want to do it in many more ways, and they have the authority, thanks to technology, to make those decisions.”
It was a surprise vote of confidence from Disney for a part of the media industry in which they have yet to hold much sway. Disney last month unveiled DisneyLife, a U.K.-only service that would let Web viewers watch some childrens' TV shows and movies for $15 a month. On Thursday, Disney also confirmed it had struck a deal adding channels like ABC and ESPN onto Sony's streaming service, PlayStation Vue.
But the Big Mouse fully intends to push further into Web video, with Iger on Thursday calling DisneyLife "where we're going as a company" and saying the company is "very interested in taking product directly to consumers." Of DisneyLife, Iger said, "there will be other opportunities outside the U.K."
Disney is following a number of Web giants increasingly fishing for new business on the Web. HBO bulked up its $15-a-month, no-cable-required HBO Now subscription service this week by inking a deal with former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart. Also this week, CBS announced it would develop a new "Star Trek" series viewable only on its $6-a-month online site, CBS All Access.
In August, Disney touched off a stock-selling frenzy for media companies when the Big Mouse said it would cut its long-term profit forecast due partially to "modest" losses in subscribers for its sports juggernaut, ESPN.
Its stock plunged amid a fresh wave of unease that the cord-cutters trend was a growing threat. Although its shares have since recovered, the dark cloud for cable companies remains. On Wednesday, investors sold off HBO parent Time Warner after the cable giant said disappointments in cable-TV subscriptions would cause next year's earnings to dip lower than expected.
Disney also saw its stock fall on Wednesday. On Thursday, Disney argued that its properties remain on solid ground. ESPN cut 300 employees this fall, and last week shut down prestige sports site Grantland, but company executives argued the sports channel is healthy. In the most recent quarter, Disney said, its media networks had posted $1.8 billion in operating income — 27 percent higher than the year before — due in part to strengthening advertising revenue at ABC and ESPN.
Iger also sought to calm the chaotic nerves of investors seeing that the viewing masses were cutting the cord far faster than expected.
Speaking of his August comments, Iger said, "We were candid, I think refreshingly so, about what the industry was experiencing in terms of subscription losses." But he added, "There certainly should be no reason to panic over comments like that. The fact remains we're in an environment today that's definitely changing ... There is a lot more competition for people's time."
Disney revenue for fiscal year 2015 soared to more than $52 billion, a new record, and 7 percent higher than the previous year. It also posted a new record in net income, at $8.4 billion. Disney's stock barely changed in after-hours trading -- dipping a mere .1 percent -- after its results were posted.
Iger also praised the new TV model, popularized recently with the Apple TV, in which viewers can view programming at their leisure, as opposed to tuning to the right channel at the right time.
"The app experience is, I'll call it the 3-D experience vs. the 2-D experience that linear television offers. ... You can essentially use it in ways that we think are far more compelling," Iger said. "Today’s consumer, when they’re faced with a user experience that is subpar, where they just can’t find anything, they can’t navigate things, or they find them and they just don’t work well — it used to be you don’t keep the consumer happy and now, it's you don’t keep the consumer, because they have other choices."