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Happy Birthday, Disney

27th January marks the 100th Anniversary of Disney

27 Jan 2023

Today, 27th January marks the 100th Anniversary of Disney. In a disruptive world with ever changing tastes and interests that is some achievement. Its 100 year journey has seen the transition from the silent era (by the way I found ‘Babylon’ a great take on the early days of cinema and immensely enjoyable) to talkies; black and white to colour; the introduction of animation where the Disney IP stands above most if not all; and the challenges faced by television and now streaming. To enable it to grow into a conglomerate with a market value of around $180 billion, the introduction of its parks has provided significant leverage and wealth. The parks currently bring in over $7 billion in income.

That’s all the good news, but the future looks more challenging and uncertain. Historically, Disney has dominated the cinema box office helped by a certain Mouse; wonderful animation films; and latterly the acquisitions of Marvel, Lucas Films and 20th Century Fox. Cinema attendance has not returned to pre Covid levels, even with the boost of a handful of blockbusters including Disney`s own Avatar. The average American now visits the cinema five times a year compared to three and a half times in 2019. My four visits in 2023 put me a wee bit ahead of these averages! Meanwhile Disney`s` streaming division has been losing $1billion a quarter. These losses were brought to a head in the 4th quarter of 2022 when they peaked at $1.5 billion, resulting in the exit of CEO Bob Chapkek and the return of Bob Iger for a projected two years. In the streaming space Disney is competing with the likes of Amazon and Apple, who use streaming as loss leaders for their other businesses. Both companies have market values of around £2 Trillion, making for very deep pockets.

Broadcast and cable television has historically been another cornerstone of the Disney empire. But here again the industry is in decline. Households are cancelling expensive cable packages and swapping to cheaper streaming platforms and spending an increasing amount of time on free content such as YouTube.  Audience viewing numbers at Disney`s ABC have fallen by a third in the past four years or so.

If the above does not give Mr. Iger enough of a headache, add to this the trend of a younger market which is more engaged in games rather than films and television; the rise and rise of the China market as a major threat, and on the negative side of the Balance Sheet, Disney has Debt of $37billion.

As I said at the start, Disney has continually had the foresight and ability to reinvent itself. I wish them well in a changing world. Let’s face it, how many of today’s new kids on the block will be around to celebrate a 100th anniversary?

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