Disney Readies for Talent Deal 'Reset' Following 'Black Widow' Lawsuit

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Samson is also a proud member of the Transgender Journalists Association. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter at @Samsonamore. Pronouns: he/him

Disney CEO Bob Chapek acknowledged the ongoing tensions developing among high-profile talent and studios that have put their blockbusters on streaming channels instead of releasing them first in theaters.

"The talent deals going forward will have to reflect the fact that the world's changing," Chapek said, speaking virtually at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference. "There's a bit of a reset going on right now."

"Black Widow" star Scarlett Johansson sued Disney in July for releasing the film directly to Disney Plus instead of theaters, and argued that was a breach of her contract. Chapek didn't reference the lawsuit or name Johannson directly, but he implied it could change how Disney does business.

Johannson was to be compensated based on box office performance and could have lost up to $50 million from the movie skipping theaters, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Chapek said that many of the deals brokered with stars were done so before the pandemic altered the theatrical window.

"So we're sort of putting a square peg in a round hole right now, where we've got a deal that's conceived under a certain set of conditions," he said.

"We'll think about that as we do our future talent deals and plan for that, and make sure that that's incorporated. But right now we've got sort of this middle position where we're trying to do right by talent," Chapek added.

The dispute is unfolding amid larger concerns for Disney. Chapek warned investors that Disney Plus subscriber growth is likely to slow in the fourth quarter adding users in the "low single-digit millions" as pandemic-fueled production delays limited their movie debuts.

Coronavirus pandemic lockdowns and regulations put a massive strain on Disney's ability to churn out content for its streamers at the rate it typically targets and it has also thrown a wrench in their theatrical release schedule.

"COVID-induced production delays is a kink in the supply chain for new content," Chapek said, adding that "this is short term."

He reported Disney has 61 movies and 17 shows in production right now. The Disney TV division has over 200 active productions globally.

Former NBC Studios president and UCLA School of Theater, Film and TV Lecturer Tom Nunan said production delays are standard for an industry reeling from the pandemic.

"The production footprint around the world has been forever changed by COVID," Nunan said. He added there's a sort of post-coronavirus "hangover from just the obscene kind of buying that consumers went on (subscribing to streaming services) during the height of the pandemic, here and abroad," as people begin to resume normal life.

Nunan said it was surprising Disney only had 200 global TV productions active given the number of properties they own across film and television.

Disney shares closed down 4.17% on Tuesday.

The company reports fourth quarter earnings Nov. 11.

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Billed As Rivals, Health Care Payments Startups Peachy and Walnut Join Forces

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

Photo courtesy of Peachy

When Lex Oiler, co-founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based health care payments startup Peachy, first met for coffee with Roshan Patel, her counterpart at New York-based Walnut, she says she tried to break the ice by asking, “So—mergers and acquisitions?”

The quip came from the fact that many venture capital investors viewed the two startups as competitors, according to the founders, since both are tackling the complex web of health care payments. Walnut allows patients to pay large medical bills in manageable installments, while Peachy streamlines payment collection while also helping patients maintain and improve their credit scores.

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Folio, a New NFT Marketplace, Wants to Streamline the World of Digital Art

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is dot.LA's Editorial Fellow. Prior to that, she was an editorial intern at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

Image courtesy of Folio

For Joey Primiani, designing a new NFT marketplace is just the latest stop in what’s been a long and fascinating trip through the world of tech.

After stints at Google and Cortex and a gig developing Lady Gaga’s online fan community, Primiani, together with business partner Mirko Kiefer, unveiled his latest venture this week: Folio, a social network that offers artists a platform and tools to showcase their NFT creations.

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Introducing 'Moves': Our New Weekly Recap of Job Changes in LA Tech

Molly Wright
Molly Wright is an intern for dot.LA. She previously edited the London School of Economics’ student newspaper in the United Kingdom, interned for The Hollywood Reporter and was the blogging editor for UCLA’s Daily Bruin.
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

This is the first installment of Moves—a weekly feature highlighting job and career changes around the Los Angeles and Southern California tech ecosystem.

Moves is presented by Interchange.LA, dot.LA's recruiting and career platform connecting Southern California's most exciting companies with top tech talent. Create a free Interchange.LA profile here. And if you're looking for ways to supercharge your recruiting efforts, find out more about Interchange.LA's white-glove recruiting service by emailing sharmineh@dot.LA.

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