In an interview with CNBC’s David Faber, Iger explained the decision is meant to address a "diluted focus and attention" among audiences and decision makers for the two franchises, but also, maybe more importantly, cut costs. "You pull back not just to focus, but also as part of our cost containment initiative. Spending less on what we make, and making less," the 72-year-old said.
The move comes at a time when Marvel properties are not performing at the box office as well as they did during the Infinity Saga, an 11-year stretch from 2008 to 2019 where the studio released 23 titles culminating in the $2.799 billion success known as Avengers: Endgame, followed by Spider-Man: Far From Home.
In 2023, Marvel has released Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which earned $214 million domestically and $476 million worldwide. That's a respectable sum when compared to the $216 million domestic and $406 million globally pulled in by 2018's Ant-Man and the Wasp. That's where the encouraging signs end. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Thor: Love and Thunder were unable to match the box office success of their respective predecessors.
The current problem with Marvel is a mix of oversaturation and superhero fatigue. Disney met the assumed demand for Marvel content by flooding the market. In 2021 alone, Disney released four MCU films (Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, and Spider-Man: No Way Home) and five series on the Disney+ streaming service (WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, What If...? and Hawkeye).
"In our zeal to basically grow our content significantly and serve our streaming offerings, we ended up taxing our people, in terms of their time and their focus, way beyond where they had been," Iger told CNBC. "Marvel is a great example of that. It had not been in the television business at any significant level, and not only did they increase their movie output, but they ended up making a number of TV series. Frankly, it diluted focus and attention."
Avengers actor Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson) justifiably called out Iger on the whole "not been in the television business at any significant level" front, having led seven seasons of ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. show. He simply tweeted, "Bro..."
In addition to churning out too many projects, the in-progress Multiverse Saga has alienated the casual fan, who is no longer able to check in and out of various titles because of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's connective tissue. For example, in order to comprehend what the hell is going on in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, you had to, at least, watch WandaVision, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and maybe even Loki.
This overabundance falls squarely on the shoulders of Iger and Disney, who eagerly pushed for more Marvel content because, simply put, they wanted to make as much money as possible. With Hollywood 74 days into the WGA writers strike and now facing the just-begun SAG-AFTRA strike, the public is getting a better understanding of how greedy studios, streamers, and their executives can be.
A 2022 Variety article reported Iger graciously took a pay cut, lowering his yearly compensation from $45.9 million to a meager $1 million base salary. Oh wait, there's also a long-term incentive award in his contract in which he can earn up to $25 million per year.
David Zaslav—the Warner Bros. Discovery CEO who reduced the company's $50 billion debt by burying the $90 million completed Batgirl film and callously discarding projects from the Max streaming service for the sake of tax write-offs—earned nearly $39.3 million last year, according to Deadline. Thanks in large part to his grant option, Zaslav raked in almost $250 million in 2021.
In a fiery, insightful, strike-commencing speech on Thursday, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher criticized the claim that studios are losing money when CEOs like Iger and Zaslav are pulling in exorbitant paychecks.
Meanwhile, Deadline reported Tuesday that studios and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are willing to wait months until desperation kicks in before returning to the negotiating table with writers.
"The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses," a studio exec said.