When Bob Iger stepped down as Walt Disney (DIS) CEO, it was expected, but also curious. The long-time leader was at the top of his game with the entertainment giant poised to grow its film and theme park businesses while making a huge mark in streaming with Disney+.
Iger had no reason to leave other than Disney's tradition of CEOs stepping down at a certain age. That may have made sense if the company had a clear rising star in the wings. Sometimes, a successful leader steps aside so their company does not lose its up-and-coming next CEO.
Bob Chapek was not that guy.
Instead, Chapek made sense as CEO if Iger had to (or wanted to) leave. He was a safe enough choice, although he lacked the creative bona fides that Disney's boss should have. Still, with the pandemic looming, hiring an operator who could make tough decisions made sense.
Some of those decisions, however, have been very unpopular. Now, Iger has reclaimed the Disney throne and he could roll back some of Chapek's least-popular moves.
1. Disneyworld, Disneyland Theme Park Reservations
During the dark days of the Covid pandemic, Disney had to operate its theme parks at limited capacities. That forced the company to use a reservation system to avoid having customers pile up at its gates that it could not let in.
It was a policy that was needed, but one that made it impossible to visit on a spontaneous basis. This was a major bone of contention for Disney World annual passholders who were accustomed to simply being able to pop by.
Now, Disney has kept slightly lower capacities at its theme parks than it had before the pandemic and it has opted to keep the reservation system. Iger could drop the unpopular system and go back to the days when parks did have to go to a one-in/one-out system once capacities were hit.
Now that people can wait in line, that system -- which would likely result in more visitors on very crowded days -- makes more sense than using reservations.
2. Stop the Disney World Ticket Price Increases
Disney uses variable pricing based on demand at its theme park, and it had not raised ticket prices in the years before the pandemic. Now, that covid no longer clouds its operations, the company plans a major price hike that will be slightly different at each of the four Disney World parks.
"The new prices for Disney World parks' one-day, one-park tickets will vary for each park. Animal Kingdom will be the least expensive, ranging from $109 to $159; Epcot will cost $114 to $179; Hollywood Studios from $124 to $179; and Magic Kingdom $124 to $189," TheStreet's Kirk O'Neil reported.
Iger would score a lot of points with Disney's fanbase if he acknowledged the tight economic conditions in the country and delayed this increase, which does not go into effect until Dec. 8.
3. Roll Back all the Little Theme Park Price Increases
Iger probably won't bring back free FastPass+ access. But what he could do is address a lot of little price increases the company has made at Disney World and Disneyland.
Food prices, for example, have steadily gone up while, in some cases, portion sizes have also gotten smaller. Basically, Disney has inched up the cost of everything at its theme parks because its customer base has shown a willingness to pay.
The new CEO could offer a holiday gift to customers by rolling back price increases. If he does not want to do that, Iger could offer up a promise that prices will stay the same for the next 6 or 12 months.
Any of these changes would be small, but be a clear sign that the new Disney CEO sees his customers as a valuable part of the Disney experience and not simply a profit center.