There’s been a lot of talk on websites lately on the state of the Walt Disney Company. Between lower-than-usual theme park attendance, several box office disappointments, and other problems, rumors have buzzed that Disney may be trying to sell some companies off, with CEO Bob Iger acknowledging some issues.
That leads to a question of just what Disney owns. While some may crack “what don’t they own,” there are a few notable entertainment places Disney doesn’t have under their umbrella. Disney has lost a few brands over the years, like Touchstone/Hollywood Pictures but still maintains success with Walt Disney Studios and various offshoots of merchandising, etc.
Right now, here is a full list of the properties Disney has purchased over the years, and it is amazing to consider how they could probably sell off one or two and still be making a healthy profit with all they own.
In 1995, Disney made a huge purchase of ABC. They already had connections thanks to The Wonderful World of Disney airing there, but this means Disney now owns scores of ABC series and the dividends from streaming rights, DVD sales, and other parts. Even if ABC has had ups and downs, Disney’s ownership allows them a great stake in things.
ESPN (80% stake)
As part of the ABC deal, Disney also took on an 80% stake in ESPN. The sports network remains a mainstay of coverage with various secondary channels and its own streaming service as well. While it has had some layoffs in the last year, owning the biggest sports outlet in the world made this a key buy for Disney.
Comic book fans were rocked in 2009 when Disney bought Marvel Comics after the company had years of financial issues. Not only does Disney profit from the comics themselves but also from the rights to various characters, which they’ve used to create the MCU and rake in billions. This purchase sure did pay off for Disney and moviegoers alike.
Coming out of nowhere, this 2012 purchase stunned Hollywood. Not only did Disney buy Lucasfilm for $4 billion, but it immediately announced plans for new Star Wars movies. They own Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and other Lucasfilm properties, as well as video games as well. Debate the quality of the new Star Wars movies, but Galaxy’s Edge, among other properties, showed this was a big buy for Disney.
A complicated deal, Disney made a partnership with the Hearst Corporation in 2009 to take on the long-running cable network. As part of that, Disney now has a 50% stake in A&E, Lifetime, the History Channel, and their various offshoots, expanding their reach across audiences, and while they have to split the profits with Hearst, it’s a great deal.
If any purchase was a boon for Disney, buying Pixar in 2006 was it. The company had existed as a subsidiary for a while but was still independent when Toy Story became a phenomenon. After years of hits, Disney finally bought Pixar full, just in time for a wave of success like Wall-E, Up and more. Granted, their last few efforts have been lacking, but Pixar has still blossomed under the Disney banner while boosting its Oscar wins.
Founded in 1989 by Michael Eisner, Hollywood Records is the main music side of the company. Their albums range from movie soundtracks to Disney Channel stars to mature artists not acceptable for the Walt Disney Record Company. It still retains a good audience for a fun music mix and a smart move by Eisner.
Vice Media (10% stake)
Currently, Vice Media is in freefall with layoffs, bad business and trying to sell. One would think Disney would be a good fit, given they own a stake said to be about 26%. However, Disney has also reported losing about $400 million and failed to buy the company in 2016. So while they have an ownership stake for now, Disney may be getting out of this soon.
This was one of Disney’s first big purchases in 1990, with Jim Henson signing off on the deal. This would lead to the Muppets being used in Disney parks and a few new TV shows. Sadly, Henson died shortly after the deal was made, leading to a brief legal issue before it was settled and scores of ideas never coming to light. Still, Disney can use the Muppets and the great humor they bring.
Disney already owned 30% of the streaming service before the merger with Fox. It now has a 60% stake, with Comcast owning another 30% and WarnerMedia owning the last 10%. There are reports Bob Iger is hoping to combine Hulu and Disney+ into one service by 2024, with Disney’s majority stake in the company pushing them on.
21st Century Fox/FX/National Geographic
A huge purchase, Disney buying up Fox gives them access to the massive library of titles and shows from classic films to The Simpsons. It also gives them control over FX, the cable network known for its wild, award-winning dramatic series as well as National Geographic, from the long-running magazine to their TV programs. This one purchase was a big one but gave Disney an even bigger stake in the entertainment world.
On top of those purchases, Disney also has some ownership stakes in the following:
- Maker Studios: It’s a production company for popular YouTube channels that has since been folded into other areas of the company after a troubled few years. Disney purchased it in 2014 to absorb it into the Disney Digital Network.
- Steamboat Ventures: Named after the first ever Disney cartoon, this is a venture capital company that invests in some of the Web’s top startups, such as GoPro, Photobucket, and a host of Chinese social media and gaming companies.
- Earth Star Inc: The company for private jets used by Disney and other companies, which also has the Synergy Group management company.
- Several international media companies, such as ATV, RTL 2, RDS, Tele 5, and Kividoo.
- A few small shell companies left over from when Walt was secretly buying land for Walt Disney World in the 1960s.
So it’s little wonder Disney spends so much to get so many properties and how, even without their own movies and theme parks, the Disney Company isn’t quite as bad off as some on Wall Street claim it is.