The monarch of this magic kingdom is no man but a mouse -- Mickey Mouse. The Walt Disney Company is the world's largest media conglomerate, with assets encompassing movies, television, publishing, and theme parks. Its Disney/ABC Television Group includes the ABC television network and 10 broadcast stations, as well as a portfolio of cable networks including ABC Family, Disney Channel, and ESPN (80%-owned). Walt Disney Studios produces films through imprints Walt Disney Pictures, Disney Animation, and Pixar, and its Marvel Entertainment is a top comic book publisher and film producer. In addition, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts operates the company's popular theme parks including Walt Disney World and Disneyland.
Like other media conglomerates, the company depends on its wide array of entertainment offerings across its film, television, and theme parks divisions to generate revenue; it also earns money by distributing its content through multiple channels. A substantial part of Disney's business also comes from ancillary products, mostly aimed at children, created from its trove of characters and other intellectual property.
In recent years, Disney has counted on its Pixar and Marvel stable of characters to offset studio revenue losses and further fuel its consumer products engine through licensing for toys and other merchandise. Continuing this expansion strategy, in 2012 Disney announced plans to acquire Star Wars owner Lucasfilm in a deal worth more than $4 billion.
The company's largest operating segment in terms of revenue is Disney's media networks, which accounts for about 45% of the company's overall sales. Media networks includes TV, cable, and radio holdings devoted to broadcast, production, and distribution, and are overseen by Disney/ABC Television Group.
Cable TV operations make up more than two-thirds of media networks segment's revenues. In addition to the leading channels such as the ESPN sports network and the Disney Channel, the company owns about 42% of A&E Television Networks (AETN), a joint venture with Hearst and NBCUniversal (NBCU). AETN includes cable channels A&E, Lifetime, and The History Channel.
The company's second biggest revenue-generator is its theme park business (nearly 30% of revenues), followed by its filmed entertainment segment (a bit more than 15% of revenues). Disney's consumer products division -- which includes the Disney Store retail chain (with about 200 stores in North America, 100 stores in Europe, and 45 stores in Japan) and Disney Publishing Worldwide -- makes products such as straight-to-video movies, spin-off books, and licensed apparel. It accounts for about 7% of revenues.
The remaining business segment, Disney Interactive Media Group (DIMG), includes game producer Disney Interactive Studios, as well as Disney Online (producer of websites such as Disney.com and DisneyFamily.com), and the Disney-branded mobile phone business in Japan, which provides mobile phone service and content to consumers. In the digital content distribution arena, Disney owns a 30% stake in Hulu. It is a partner with fellow media giants News Corporation and NBCU in the online video venture. The company also operates a partnership with video sharing website YouTube (owned by Google) to distribute clips from shows on ABC and ESPN. In addition, Disney is active in the digital distribution of films and TV shows through Apple's iTunes store. The interactive segment accounts for about 2% of Disney's total revenues.
Overall, Disney saw an increase in revenues and net income in 2011. When compared with 2010, net income grew by 21% on a 7% increase in revenue. Revenue increased across all business segments with the exception of studio entertainment. Though the studio reported a decline in revenues in 2011, it was still quite profitable that year, with a net income of $618 million. It owes much of its movie success to its Pixar and Marvel stable of characters, which served as vehicles for the popular 2011 films Cars 2, Thor, and Captain America.
Also in 2011 the company benefitted from increased affiliate fees at its cable networks, increased guest spending and volumes at domestic parks and resorts, higher ad revenue at ESPN, decreased programming and production costs at ABC, and higher licensing revenue from Cars merchandise.
The only area where Disney did not see profits in 2011 was at (DIMG), Though the unit saw increased revenues in 2011, it reported that the integration of Playdom negatively impacted its earnings. (DIMG had acquired Playdom, a popular social game company on Facebook, for $563.2 million.) In 2011 DIMG closed Vancouver studio Propaganda Games, the creator of the Tron: Evolution video game, and announced layoffs. The move was part of a reorganization designed to emphasize mobile and social games rather than expensive-to-produce console games.
In California, Disney continues to invest in improvements to its parks, including a $1 billion effort through 2012 to renovate and upgrade its California Adventure park (adjacent to Disneyland). Looking to expand its presence in the Asian tourism market, Disney plans to build a $3.6 billion theme park in Shanghai (43%-owned), and it is investing an additional $800 million in equity and converted loans to expand its 47%-owned Hong Kong park. Other international Disney park locations include a 40% interest in Euro Disney, which operates Disneyland Paris; the company also collects royalties and fees from Tokyo Disneyland Resort, operated by Oriental Land Co..
Mergers and Acquisitions
The company is benefitting from two crucial mega-acquisitions: Marvel Entertainment and Pixar Animation. Its 2009 acquisition of Marvel brought Spider-Man, Iron Man, and other comic book characters into the Magic Kingdom. The deal was worth a whopping $4 billion, and changed the course of its movie-making strategy, reducing the number of films the studio releases each year while significantly ramping up production of costly big-budget franchises.
Pixar had an even bigger price tag of $7.4 billion. Disney acquired that company back in 2006 to maintain its status as an animation powerhouse.
Disney counts on its Pixar and Marvel stable of characters to offset studio revenue losses and further fuel its consumer products engine through licensing for toys and other merchandise.
In 2012 it announced plans to acquire Lucasfilm from George Lucas for more than $4 billion in order to add the Star Wars franchise to its already bursting portfolio of entertainment properties. – less