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Disney CEO: AI is going to be “extremely difficult to manage”

Disney CEO Bob Iger says that Artificial Intelligence is going to be “extremely difficult to manage.”

Iger highlighted concerns around the control of Intellectual Property (IP) – as AI offers the potential to generate and animate figures from Disney’s protected roster of characters – telling analysts on an earnings call that “our legal team is working overtime already to try to come to grips with what could be some of the challenges here.”

Disney’s CEO had turned serious in the wake of questioning after some initial quips about AI (“I'm looking forward to a time where maybe AI does earnings calls for me. You probably wouldn't know the difference!”)

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Asked about AI, the Disney CEO said: “It’s pretty clear that AI developments represent some pretty interesting opportunities for us and some substantial benefits. In fact, we're already starting to use AI to create some efficiencies and ultimately to better serve consumers…. [But] we're certainly not the only ones [to have concerns.] There's a lot we're going to have to contend with that will be quite disruptive and quite challenging.”

He spoke on May 11 as Disney reported quarterly revenues of $21.82 billion, up 13%,

Disney AI challenges: Biggest threat is "bad storytelling"

The warning came after Disney announced plans to cut 7,000 jobs and trim $2.5 billion of non-content spending as well as $3 billion from content spending amid hot competition in the content streaming space.

That has included technology rationalisation, with Iger telling analysts on a Q2 2023 earnings call on May 11 that Disney’s 2023 capex would be $5.6 billion, $400 million lower than expected for the fiscal year.

He attributed that in part to lower technology spend at DMED (Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution).

Disney has invested heavily in adtech, he added however, saying the company had added more than 1,000 advertisers over the past year and now have 5,000 advertisers across our streaming platforms, with over a third buying advertising programmatically. Disney will launch an ad tier on Disney+ in Europe by the end-2023.

What of AI’s impact on animation itself? Former Disney supervising animator Aaron Blaise, who also directed the studio’s feature Brother Bear, recently took to his YouTube channel to talk about the use of AI in animation,.

In his words: "There is no way that someone’s art should be used to train AI to create something else, basically riding on the back of their sweat” but Blaise ultimately wanted to emphasise the point that the biggest threat to animation is not AI, but what he described as “an age-old threat: bad stories and bad management…”

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