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Why Disney won’t buy Twitter

I can’t believe I have to type this, but here you go.

Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit - Day 2 Michael Kovac / Getty Images for Vanity Fair
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

This was supposed to be a rant about why it makes no sense for Salesforce to buy Twitter. But like the kids say, life comes at you fast*.

So now we’re on to Disney.

It’s not insane to imagine that Disney would think about maybe kinda taking a look at Twitter, as Bloomberg is reporting.

After all: Jack Dorsey is on Disney’s board.

Perhaps he has been talking up Twitter Moments to Bob Iger — out of earshot from fellow board member Sheryl Sandberg — during email/water breaks on board meeting days.

And if that doesn’t sound convincing, there’s this: Other media companies have thought about the idea that Disney might buy Twitter — based chiefly on the idea that Dorsey and Iger are close — and that notion has prompted those guys to wargame a potential approach.

But if you’re going to spend $18 billion, $20 billion, $30 billion on something, you need a little bit more than “I like the dude who runs the company.”

So here’s the most plausible thought exercise for Iger: Disney is a video company, and Twitter would like to be a video delivery company. Meanwhile, Disney’s strength in video now seems wobbly, as cord-cutting/cord-nevering becomes a thing.

And Disney has already signaled that, in the future, it would like to own a direct-to-consumer video-delivery system, instead of being dependent on the Comcasts of the world to sell its stuff to consumers.

That’s the logic behind its investment in BAM Tech, the video company currently owned by Major League Baseball.

And if you squint at it, you can rationalize putting $1 billion or more into BAM Tech. In a best-case scenario, Disney uses that one to deliver its super-valuable content to consumers who care about it.

But how does Twitter work as a Disney-owned operation?

Forget, for a moment, whether Disney could fix Twitter’s fundamental product problems, which have capped the company’s growth.

Or whether Disney is ready to associate its pristine brand with a platform that’s become a playground for the worst people on the internet.

Or whether Iger, who made three of the best acquisitions in history, period — Marvel + Lucasfilm + Pixar, for a mere $15 billion (!) — wants to gamble his legacy on this.

Here’s the biggest issue: Once Disney takes control over Twitter, how can Twitter possibly work with any other content company — the kind Twitter needs if it wants to be a video company?

If you want Time Warner, or Viacom, or even BuzzFeed to send you their stuff, you can’t do it if you’re owned by a major rival.

That is, you can’t anymore.

You could in the old world, if you were a cable company, and you had a distribution monopoly, and anyone who wanted your customers’ eyeballs had to go through you.

But that world is going, going, gone, which is why Disney is in the place it’s at right now.

In the new world, no one owns eyeballs. Not even mighty Facebook, which is why Facebook has such Snapchat angst.

And Twitter definitely doesn’t — which is why it’s for sale right now.

* Still, hard to let that hot take go to waste, so here’s the tl;dr version: If Twitter was an awesome place for brands and businesses to interact with their customers, then brands and businesses would be interacting with their customers on Twitter. And if you want to mine Twitter’s data, you can just ask Twitter for their data. They’re happy to sell it to you.

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