Disney EMEA President Jan Koeppen speaks at 2024 Deloitte and Enders Media and Telecoms and Beyond Conference

Our EMEA President, Jan Koeppen, spoke at the 2024 Deloitte and Enders Media and Telecoms and Beyond Conference with a focus on Disney’s long connection with, and long-term commitment to, the UK, as well as how Disney is part of the wider ecosystem both here and in each market we operate. And how that ultimately, we are confident about Disney’s position in the UK and EMEA today, and we have a strong platform for continued growth.

He started off the speech by saying: “Disney has been producing content here in the UK. Almost 75 years in fact. I’d guess that’s a bit longer than most companies here today have been in business. Our long and deep connection with the UK is something that we’re very proud of. Contributing to the economy, creating jobs, opportunities, and skills and partnering with the wider industry.”

“I’d like to focus on two things that I believe make Disney stand out in an industry that’s always competitive, and always changing. These differences have served us well over the past 100 years. And they set us up for continued growth in years to come. First and foremost, Disney creates the most epic stories and characters that don’t just stand the test of time, they grow over time and become part of the culture. This has been at the heart of what we do ever since Walt Disney founded the business. And it always will be. The experience of amazing stories and characters forms deep, emotional connections that can last a lifetime. And that can be shared across generations.”

He continued: “I’d hazard a guess that many of you can remember your first Disney moment: where you were; who you were with; what you were watching. I know for sure that I can. Of course, there are timeless Disney classics like Peter PanBeauty and the Beast, or Moana. There is the epic saga of Star Wars, expanding to encompass not just movies, but TV series like The Mandalorian. And, underscoring the breadth of Disney’s content, there is a different kind of epic storytelling from Marvel Studios. What all these examples show us is that the best, most loved stories and characters can endure for many years. They open up the possibility of new adventures and of connections with new generations. Now the latest Marvel movie – Deadpool & Wolverine – will be released in cinemas this summer. Its first trailer smashed all records and is now the most viewed movie trailer of all time. In the first 24 hours, it racked up 365 million views – which is a truly staggering number.”

Focusing on Disney’s production in the UK, he said: “Deadpool & Wolverine was shot about an hour away from here. And it is just one of 20 movies and TV series that we’ve filmed at Pinewood Studios over the last five years. As well as Marvel, this includes Disney classics, Star Wars and Indiana Jones – all stories that travel right around the world, being made here in the UK. Whenever I’m at Pinewood, what makes the biggest impression on me is the scale of the operation, the diversity of skills. We’re talking about thousands of people, all part of the wider ecosystem.  And on every single production, there are trainees getting experience to begin their careers in film and TV. All part of Disney’s long-term commitment to the UK.”

Turning to the breadth of our business, Jan commented: “Let’s turn now to the second difference that gives Disney an edge: the breadth of our business and the many ways in which we connect with fans. Of course, streaming is an important part of the mix and I’ll talk more about Disney Plus in a moment. However, there is much more besides. This starts with our belief in the importance of theatrical distribution. Everyone at Disney loves movies, and we love to make them big. Audiences seem to like it too. In fact, since the very beginning of movie making, no fewer than eight of the 10 highest grossing movies are Disney titles. We know that box-office success has a positive effect across the rest of our portfolio. And this goes beyond the screen to include live events, consumer products and theme parks.”

And on distribution: “After theatrical release, our approach to distribution, for movies and TV series, will vary title-by-title and market-by-market. Our linear networks are an important part of this mix. The evidence tells us that people are still watching plenty of broadcast television across genres including entertainment, factual, and drama. And we license some of our content in later windows to partners including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and UKTV. Not only does this generate revenue, it also helps to build awareness of key titles. We believe strongly that the breadth of our business is a key source of advantage. It brings strength, resilience and opportunity.” 

Using The Lion King as a great example of our ‘Disney Difference’, he said: “The Lion King is a great example of what happens when you bring together these two differences: brilliant stories and characters, and the unmatched breadth of our business. Generations have enjoyed The Lion King since the original movie was released 30 years ago. Many of you will know that, later this year, a new movie will tell the origin story of Mufasa. It’s another title that was partly made here in the UK, and it promises to be spectacular. But this year also brings another milestone.”

“In October, the live stage production of The Lion King reaches the landmark of 25 years in the West End of London. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most successful musicals of all time. More than 20 million people have seen the show at the Lyceum Theatre and it has created opportunities for hundreds of cast members over the years.”

“The Lion King is an illustration of Disney’s enduring content at its best: An epic story and incredible characters, an iconic movie that becomes a record-breaking stage show, a live-action version, and a much-anticipated prequel, streaming on Disney Plus, experiences at our parks, consumer products for sale in stores, all creating value, and all reinforcing the deep and enduring connection with fans.

Turning to Disney+ in the region, he said: “It’s just over four years since we began the European launch of Disney Plus and today, it’s firmly established in the lives of tens of millions of customers in 85 territories across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Something that might surprise you is that around half of those customers are households without children. Disney Plus is a product with broad appeal – and this of course has a lot to do with the wide variety of content that we offer. I’ve already mentioned the impact of our movies, so let me focus on another aspect that might be less familiar. In this region, Disney Plus offers an extensive range of general entertainment content. This includes brilliant shows like The Bear, Only Murders in the Building and Welcome to Wrexham. The response from customers has been excellent. In fact, general entertainment currently represents almost two thirds of total hours watched.”

“Yet again, the value of enduring content is plain to see. One of the shows that Disney Plus customers love the most is Grey’s Anatomy, which is now in its incredible 20th season. To give you an idea of how much they love it, the average Grey’s Anatomy viewer has watched more than 120 hours of this brilliant show on Disney Plus.”

“Alongside our long-running series, it’s great to see that our epic new drama, Shōgun, has become a massive hit. In EMEA, it is the most viewed premiere of any general entertainment series on Disney Plus. It has also been exciting to see the success of UK originals like Renegade Nell and Coleen Rooney: The Real Wagatha Story, which is second only to The Kardashians as our most watched unscripted series in the UK. And later this year, we look forward to releasing our local drama series, Rivals, based on the iconic novel from Jilly Cooper. I’ve got to tell you that when I first started to see rough cuts of Rivals, I couldn’t wait to watch the whole thing… I hope that you’ll love it too. Disney Plus will play an even bigger part in Disney’s future, and we have plans to keep making the service even better!”

Jan then closed with an important point about how we operate: “There is no denying the fact that Disney is a large, global business. We’ve been around a long time and we intend to be around a lot longer, and we’re ambitious to keep growing. But we also recognise that we’re part of a wider ecosystem in the UK, and in each market where we operate. This ecosystem helps to sustain us, and we want to help sustain it too. We believe it is by working with others that we can best achieve our goals. This includes many of the content producers, broadcasters and distribution platforms that are present today. Our business model is about creating content with mass appeal, and then getting it to people in whichever way they want.”

“Look at what happens when we make a big movie. We work with cinema owners to release it, then we work with platform partners in the transactional window. And after Disney Plus, we work with other pay channels and free-to-air networks to reach an even broader audience. We value all of these partnerships, and we look forward to continued collaboration. In conclusion, the enduring strengths of our business give us confidence about the future. We’re home to the biggest stories and characters. And the breadth of our business opens up a wide field of opportunity. With many routes to reach fans, Disney has a strong platform for continued growth. And by working with partners across the industry, we’ll keep building our contribution to the UK and the other markets where we operate.”