Disney sees a revenge story: Mr. Peltz is aligned with Ike Perlmutter, who was ousted from an executive job at Disney, and Jay Rasulo, a former Disney executive who was passed over for chief executive in 2015 and resigned. Disney has asked shareholders to reject Trian and another activist investor, Blackwells Capital, arguing that giving them board seats would slow the company’s turnaround effort. (Mr. Peltz waged an unsuccessful campaign for a Disney shake-up last year.)
“The last thing that we need right now is to be distracted, in terms of our time, our energy, by an activist or activists that frankly have a completely different agenda, and don’t understand our company, its assets, even the essence of the Disney brand,” Mr. Iger said on CNBC on Wednesday.
A Trian spokesman had no immediate comment.
Mr. Iger used part of Disney’s quarterly conference call with analysts to emphasize progress in fortifying ESPN amid an uncertain future. A decade ago, more than 100 million households paid for a cable or satellite television package that included ESPN. Now the total is closer to 70 million, going down to an analyst-projected 50 million by 2027.
Disney will introduce a flagship ESPN streaming service in 2025, “probably in the fall, maybe as early as late August,” Mr. Iger said. The service will feature most of the programming currently seen on the primary ESPN cable channel. It will also offer sports betting, extensive statistics, fantasy sports, e-commerce and have “robust” personalization capabilities. (The flagship ESPN service will be separate from ESPN+, a streaming app that offers more niche programming.)
In addition, Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery announced on Tuesday that they would join together and sell access to all of the sports they televised (across 14 cable channels) through yet another new streaming service. It will be available this fall. Other details, like price or who would run the service, are not yet known.
Disney’s theme park and consumer products division delivered $3.1 billion in profit, an 8 percent increase compared with a year ago. Revenue climbed 4 percent to $6.3 billion. For the first time ever, all of Disney’s overseas theme parks were profitable, including the long-troubled Hong Kong Disneyland.
Lauren Hirsch contributed reporting.