Apple's Video Plans Said to Potentially Put Disney Chief's Board Seat at Risk

Apple’s foray into original TV shows and movies is increasing competition with Walt Disney, Possibly putting Bob Iger’s Plank Chair at the iPhone Manufacturer in Danger.

Apple has been buying shows and movies at festivals and funding its own content that the company plans to package this year into a streaming video service. It is set to preview the offering with Hollywood stars in an event March 25 at Cupertino, California.

Apple’s current proxy statements said the company has”arms-length commercial agreements” with Disney, including digital services material licensing agreements.

That may change as both businesses launch streaming solutions that compete with one another. Each initiative is strategically important. Apple will make it central to a growing suite of digital subscriptions which spur earnings as iPhone sales growth slows. Disney is starting three streaming offerings as traditional TV loses viewers.

“They may have to recognise that they will become active competitors in the near future,” said John Coffee, manager of the Center on Corporate Governance at Columbia Law School. He suspects both companies have legal advisors looking into if Iger should remain on Apple’s board. The Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 limits directors from serving on their own board and of a competitor, Coffee noted. Apple and Disney didn’t respond to requests for comment.

This wouldn’t be the first director-level conflict of interest in the tech industry. The largest companies in the industry are increasingly turning into one another’s turf, while getting into the entertainment industry.

At Disney, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey abandoned the plank in 2018 as their very own firms began developing first video programs.

Board members frequently recuse themselves from regions of discussion where they may have a conflict of interest, but with Apple’s growing emergence in video content, Iger could detect there are fewer talks he could get involved in.

When Schmidt abandoned Apple’s board, Jobs said his”potency” was”diminished” and he had to”recuse himself from larger portions” of meetings due to”potential conflicts of interest.”

Iger has served on Apple’s board since 2011 and was a friend of Jobs. Last week, nearly all shareholders from the iPhone maker re-elected Iger into his chair. Jobs was a Disney board member until he died in 2011. The duo appeared on stage more than a decade ago to announce an iTunes partnership.

More recently, Iger was seen with Cook and Apple services chief Eddy Cue at the Sun Valley conference. Iger and Cook also have commended each other, together with Cook saying Iger runs Disney like a tech business and Iger complimenting Cook’s leadership. Jobs was also a major Disney shareholder and a hope of his politician, Laurene Powell Jobs, owned 2.5 percent of their company’s stocks, according to a regulatory filing in ancient 2017.

“In certain ways they will be aggressive, but in different ways it is likely they’ll be partners if there is some kind of live television integration,” said Michael Olson, an analyst at Piper Jaffray. In addition to its original articles, the Apple video service will integrate video from partners such as Starz and Showtime, people familiar with the programs have told Bloomberg News.

Disney, meanwhile, plans to launch a streaming service later this year featuring new and archived articles from Marvel, Star Wars, as well as Jobs’ former firm Pixar.

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