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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

June 2, 2011 at 8:22 AM

D9: Disney boss on new platforms, Apple, 3-D

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — New digital platforms are a huge opportunity for Disney and other content companies, Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said during the All Things D conference.

During an interview with co-host Kara Swisher, Iger said the arrival of the video playing iPod was a revelation about the potential of portable devices.

With some 450 million smart devices expected to be sold next year, Disney has even more opportunities to monetize its content.

“Those are media players, every one of them, whether they’re a smartphone or a tablet, they’re media players,” he said.

Netflix and Hulu are also helping Disney, but the company simultaneously is working on an overhaul of Disney.com that will include new video services. Iger said it will likely include a mix of advertising, pay-per-view and microtransactions and launch within a year.

Having content available conveniently on new platforms is also a way to find content piracy, he said.

Disney is also thinking about developing its own child- and family-oriented social network tied to Disney.com, although Iger said the company’s doing well with Facebook, where more than 180 million users are members of various Disney sites.

When pressed on the subject, Iger said he didn’t want people to have the impression the company’s about to launch a social network for kids. “We may do that at some point but it’s not imminent,” he said

Swisher asked whether Disney has a special relationship with Apple because Steve Jobs is Disney’s largest shareholder. Iger said he’s had a relationship with Jobs that goes back to Disney buying Pixar from him, but their companies have an “arm’s length” relationship.

“The company doesn’t have a special relationship with Apple,” he said, adding that “We’ve not said yes to everything Apple’s wanted and vice versa.”

Asked by Swisher about 3-D, Iger said “it’s way too early to write 3-D’s epitaph” but the format “has to be used in smart ways.”

“It has to be used carefully. It has to be used on the right film and in the right way creatively and technologically,” he said, adding that “Lion King” will be released in 3-D later this year.

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