Disney is almost certainly the world's most widely known and best-trusted entertainment brand. After years of ailing performance following the death of its founder, it found a whole new lease of life in the 1980s by reinventing the concept of the animated family movie. The huge popular success of The Little Mermaid, The Lion King and others encouraged the group to spread its wings into other areas; a key development was the takeover of Capital Cities/ABC to create one of the world's biggest media conglomerates. But by the end of the 1990s a good deal of the shine had come off the company's prestige as the house of mouse was rocked by management rows and lacklustre performance from both its core movies division and the ABC Television Network. The years of rumbling discontent culminated in a rift in the group's board, followed by an unexpected (but unsuccessful) takeover bid from cable giant Comcast. Peace was finally restored in 2005 when divisive CEO Michael Eisner agreed to step down in favour of his deputy Bob Iger. Performance continued to be mercurial for a few years, buffeted by recessionary forces, declines in DVD sales, and several under-performing movie releases. In fact, the group's most consistently profitable subsidiary for several years was not its high-profile movies, parks or ABC divisions but top-rated cable sports network ESPN. Disney finally got into its stride again with the takeover of Marvel and the astonishing success of the various movies inspired by its diverse collection of superheroes. In an even more startling move, it announced at the end of 2017 a deal to acquire most of entertainment rival 21st Century Fox for what was finally a price tag of $71.3bn in stock and debt. The group reported another year of record revenues and profits for the year to Sept 2018. Group revenues were $59.4bn with net income of $12.6bn. Bob Iger remains chairman & CEO of Walt Disney, and has led the aggressive expansion of its entertainment portfolio through acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox, among others. He is unquestionably the most powerful figure in the global entertainment industry. He had been expected to step down in 2018, but postponed that move in the wake of the Fox takeover.
Capsule checked 30th July 2019
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Adbrands Daily Update 15th May 2019: Comcast agreed to transfer full operational control of Hulu to Disney in return for a five-year partnership agreement running until Jan 2024. The two sides will divide WarnerMedia's recently reacquired 10% stake between them, lifting the equity split in Hulu to Disney 66% / Comcast 33%. Comcast will continue to license NBCU content to the platform during that period, and will also carry Hulu on its Xfinity service. In 2024, a reciprocal put/call option comes into effect whereby either side can force the transfer of Comcast's remaining stake to Disney for a minimum valuation of $9bn. That figure could go higher, subject to an independent valuation of Hulu. NBCU CEO Steve Burke called the deal "a perfect outcome for us... the extension of the content-licensing agreement will generate significant cash flow for us, while giving us maximum flexibility to program and distribute to our own direct-to-consumer platform."
Adbrands Daily Update 10th May 2019: So much for the irresistable rise of upstart media company Vice. In its latest quarterly results, Walt Disney disclosed that it has written off the entire value of what is now a holding of around 30% in the fast-fading challenger brand. Disney acquired 21% of Vice in 2015, and inherited further shares in its takeover of 21st Century Fox. It wrote off $157m in value at the end of 2018, and the remaining $353m in the most recent quarter.
Adbrands Daily Update 3rd May 2019: Disney has agreed to sell a collection of 22 regional cable sports networks it acquired as part of 21st Century Fox. That was one of the conditions set by regulators for approval of the takeover. All but one of the stations is being acquired outright by Sinclair Broadcast Group, already America's biggest owner of local TV stations, with a price tag reported to be around $10bn. The remaining channel, YES, broadcasts the games of the New York Yankees baseball team. It is considered to be the jewel of the collection, and is being bought separately by a consortium comprising Sinclair, Amazon and the Yankees themselves, for almost $3.5bn. The combined deal value of around $13.5bn is less than had been expected; Disney was originally understood to be seeking offers of $16bn to $20bn.
Adbrands Daily Update 12th Apr 2019: Disney confirmed further details of its forthcoming Disney+ streaming channel. The service will launch on Nov 12th with a US monthly subscription rate of $6.99, well below Netflix. "We're starting from a position of strength, confidence and unbridled optimism," said Disney chairman-CEO Robert Iger. The service will offer about 7,500 old TV show episodes (including all 30 seasons of The Simpsons) and 500 recent or archive movies, including the Disney and 20th Century Fox movie libraries, which will be withdrawn from other services. In the first year, there will also be at least 35 specially commissioned original series, movies and specials, several of them spun off from key franchises including Marvel and Star Wars.
Adbrands Daily Update 15th Nov 2018: Walt Disney reported record revenues and profits for the year to September, powered by three mammoth movie hits. 'Avengers: Infinity War', 'Black Panther' and 'Incredibles 2' are three of the top four movies globally this year with combined box office in excess of $4.5bn. The Avengers sequel alone topped $2bn, only the fourth movie ever to reach that level in a single year. Parks & Resorts also enjoyed an outstanding year. Group revenues rose 8% to $59.4bn while net income soared by 40% to $12.6bn as a result of lower tax rates. (Pretax income was up a less stellar but still impressive 7%). Though the studio entertainment division tends to grab all the headlines, it remains the smallest of Disney's big three divisions, with annual revenues still under $10bn. That's less than half Media Networks (revs of $24.5bn) and Parks & Resorts ($20.2bn). Consumer Products & Interactive Media slipped back slightly to $4.7bn. The group also unveiled a name for its hotly anticipated streaming service, set for launch next year. This will be Disney+, and will offer a wide variety of general entertainment programming from the Disney, Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel studio divisions, as well as 20th Century Fox and National Geographic following completion of the Fox acquisition. "It will be very brand-centric," said Disney CEO Bob Iger. Iger said that Disney+ will also be available in Europe, and that Hulu - of which Disney will then have majority control - will also be rolled out to international markets.
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