Disney boss Bob Iger earlier this year joked about artificial intelligence replacing him as CEO — comments that in hindsight may appear tone deaf as Hollywood is grappling with a strike by writers and actors fearful that rapid advances in technology could render them obsolete.
“I’m looking forward to a time where maybe AI does earnings calls for me,” Iger quipped during a May earnings call.
“You probably, you wouldn’t know the difference perhaps,” the CEO, who has reportedly told confidantes that he did not anticipate the amount of work needed to get Disney back on track, said.
“Maybe they’d be better. I don’t know.”
An audio recording of the call was first obtained by independent journalist Lee Fang, who revealed its contents on his Substack newsletter over the weekend.
Iger said that while he was “bullish about the prospects” of AI due to its ability to “create efficiencies,” he acknowledged that it would be “disruptive.”
“We’re already starting to use AI to create some efficiencies and ultimately to better serve consumers,” Iger said.
“It’s also clear that AI is going to be highly disruptive and it could be difficult to manage, particularly from an IP (intellectual property) management perspective.”
Iger said during the call that Disney’s legal team “is working overtime already to try to come to grips with what could be some of the challenges here.”
“Overall, I’m bullish about the prospects because I think they’ll create efficiencies and ways for us to provide better services to customers,” Iger told investors.
“On the other hand, there’s a lot we’re going to have to contend with that’s going to be quite disruptive and quite challenging.”
The Post has sought comment from Disney.
Iger is one of several media and entertainment executives who are wrestling with fierce economic headwinds that have been exacerbated by shrinking television audiences, money-losing streaming ventures, and a work stoppage that threatens to cripple the industry.
Leaders of Hollywood’s actors’ union voted on Thursday to join screenwriters in the first joint strike in more than six decades, shutting down production across the entertainment industry after talks for a new contract with studios and streaming services broke down.
Actors picketed alongside writers outside studio headquarters in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.
The striking actors and screenwriters have demanded that studios enact protections that would safeguard their jobs by limiting the use of generative AI tools.
AI has been used in recent years to de-age actors, stitch together movie trailers, and bring back the voices and likenesses of dead actors.
Actors union reps alleged last week that studio executives proposed that they be allowed to digitally scan performers and then be able to use the computer-generated likeness in perpetuity.
Iger warned the strike would have a “very damaging effect on the whole industry.”
“This is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption,” Iger said on CNBC last week.
“There’s a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic.”