Disney has made mistakes in 2023, but pausing ads on X is not one of them

Elon Musk can sound off, but Disney chief Bob Iger will not come under pressure for joining ranks of advertisers shunning X

Not being privy to Elon Musk’s thoughts beyond the many he spews on to his social media platform X, it is impossible to know for sure if he truly believes Disney chief executive Bob Iger should be “fired immediately” for the crime of no longer advertising on X, or if this is just more ridiculous sounding off.

For sure, it’s been a strange year for Disney, which opted to celebrate its centenary by releasing a string of box office flops including Marvel instalments Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and The Marvels and the distinctly unenchanting animated fairy-tale Wish.

Iger, who returned as chief executive in November 2022 after the board ousted his successor Bob Chapek, will have hoped for more magical fortunes than those delivered by 2023, throughout which Disney’s financial performance has been decidedly mixed.

Its big-screen performance has been underwhelming compared to the precedent it has set for itself. In 2019, Disney released seven of the nine films to gross more than $1 billion (€929 million) at the box office, but this year it has had none.


IKEA's Irish store is its best performer globally

Listen | 36:16

Perhaps more revealing was Iger’s admission that not every Disney film produced of late has been quite up to scratch: “I feel good about the direction we’re headed, but I’m mindful of the fact that our performance from a quality perspective wasn’t really up to the standards that we set for ourselves,” he said in November.

All of this is the long way of saying that shareholders might grumble but should Iger come under pressure from his board — which, as the still relatively freshly reappointed boss, he probably won’t — it will be because Wish was a bomb and streaming service Disney Plus is still losing hundreds of millions every quarter, not because Disney no longer advertises on X.

After all, it’s far from alone there: Apple, Warner Bros Discovery, Comcast and Paramount Global are among the other media companies to pause advertising on the platform formerly known as Twitter.

So Musk can swear at Iger all he likes — “go f**k yourself”, he told departed advertisers at a conference last month, adding “hey Bob” — but nothing short of wholesale reform of his ailing, hate-ridden site will get those Disney dollars back.