Kevin A. Mayer (California, 58 years old) culminates this Tuesday 15 years of work at The Walt Disney Company, where, since he entered in 2005, he has managed huge acquisitions: first Pixar, the animated film production company; then Marvel, the superhero; then Lucasfilm, owners of Star wars and, finally, 21st Century Fox, owner of, among others, The Simpson. That limping studio is today an entertainment superpower like no other in history: four years ago, no studio had ever had more than three movies in the top ten. In 2019, Disney had seven. The icing on the cake is Disney +, the platform that arrives in Spain on Tuesday after a few months of testing in the United States, and where you can see all the movies and series from all these franchises. In a conversation (over the phone due to the pandemic), CEO Bob Iger’s right-hand man describes his vision of globalized entertainment for the 21st century, in which the words are repeated consumer (per audience), product or properties (for movies or series) and brand (by study).
P. In these days of quasi-global quarantine, Universal brought its motion pictures forward to platforms, for people to watch at home. Are there plans at Disney to do the same with Disney +?
R. We are considering it. Every little piece of entertainment that we can put in the hands of our consumers, we will.
P. In the US, under normal circumstances, Disney’s server crashed in the first days due to huge demand. Now, they arrive in Spain at their time of maximum historical television consumption. How have they had to adapt to the new situation?
R. They are not the market entry circumstances that we expected. But we have not redone our calculations expecting a possible increase in demand, because it is not easy to assess the impact that all this will have. What we are concerned about is delivering the product to consumers, that everything has the quality it should have and that people can stop thinking about their problems for a while.
P. Is the demand in Spain for the platform comparable to that of the United States?
R. I should not give figures, but Spain is one of our most important markets. Everything that has the Disney brand works there, both classics and novelties. Marvel and Star wars they go well too [Disney tiene un 33,7% de la cuota de mercado cinematográfico español, más del doble que el siguiente en la lista, Sony, con un 14%]. We believe that the library that brings together the entire Disney brand is going to attract a lot of people.
P. Disney + is a unique platform because it relies on the catalog while the others fight to produce original content. In fact, they have invested more money in the catalog than in the production of exclusive content. Is that proportion going to stay like this forever?
R. The original content will increase in the next five years, in all our brands, but keep in mind that at the same time, the library of movie releases will multiply as well. The idea of Disney + is to accumulate titles.
P. Are there plans to produce content in Europe like the other platforms?
R. We have no doubt that we will, but at the moment we are still installing the boxes and then make those technical stops. But there is a lot of local content coming from the Disney Channel archive.
P. Another situation that only occurs with Disney + is that it is, on the one hand, a platform, which allows access to a tremendous amount of detailed data on the preferences of each Disney client: which titles, which characters, which formats appeal more to what viewers… But, on the other hand, it is also the most productive film studio in the world. Will the information you collect on the platform guide your new productions?
R. Of course. Each piece of information allows us to better serve our consumers. We will not let the data write the scripts for us, but we will decide with them what products to make.
P. Has this data given you any surprises so far?
R. More than surprise, joy to see that the catalog worked in foreign markets. It was evident that families with children were going to want the product, because everything there is can be seen by children. The good news was that adults without children loved him too.
P. At the beginning of this century, the advent of the Internet and the fragmentation of audiences destabilized virtually all major studios. Many have not yet recovered. Disney has only grown. Why?
R. Brands. We have quite a few and that makes us unique against our many very competent rivals. Brands matter more and more in this world fragmented by the Internet, more diverse every day, where there is more and more offer to choose from: brands allow you to do so with prior knowledge. We had that vision decades ago, which has given us an advantageous position. From there, it has been a matter of buying, caring for, and managing each brand.
P. Was it taken as a turn of the wheel?
R. That was always the DNA of Disney. If you look at Walt’s plans in the 1950s, you see that he already understood the interaction between each business. When Bob Iger took the reins in 2005, he took this business-based management model and took it outside the Disney world, allowing us to grow and ensure our relevance. I also tell you that these brands are useless if you don’t make a good product with them: creative execution is essential. Without her it would have been a failure.
P. Iger announced a month ago that he will leave his position as Disney’s top executive in December 2021 when he will be replaced by Bob Chapek, director until now of the theme parks division (which, by the way, generates 100% more profits than cinema). Is a new era beginning?
R. We will see. Bob is very particular, but Chapek is quite competent; He has been working with Iger for a long time and they share philosophies. I do not anticipate big changes, but the market moves very fast and constantly. We will try to make good decisions and in most cases they will be the same as he would have made.
P. He’s been at Disney for 15 years. It has been present in the operations that have made it jump from being a company of 48,500 million dollars in 2005 to a giant of 257,000 today. What moment do you remember that was sobering?
R. In 2005, with Bob Iger as CEO, and I as strategy advisor, we noticed difficulty creating new creative properties in the traditional animation department. It had stopped working. It was then that we got used to the idea that, rather than building, we should buy. So  we acquired Pixar. Knowing that we can’t always be the best at everything was difficult but it was a revelation. It takes humility to realize that the solutions are out there and that your job is to get hold of them and take care of them. That was the change. It was the great moment.