Disney is an American entertainment company known for its iconic film and television holdings, as well as its international theme parks, toys, and characters.
In 2018, Disney fully embraced the shift in consumer behavior toward personalized, on-demand entertainment. Before any other "traditional" media company, Disney began to remake itself for a direct-to-consumer future. Disney's collection of premium global brands--Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, ESPN, and ABC--give it the kind of content that drives consumers to sign up for streaming services.
Disney has actually been preparing for this future for several years, investing in and then acquiring BamTech, a streaming service provider that has been stress-tested for a decade. In 2018, the company established a central technology and distribution platform—Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International--to launch its streaming services, beginning with ESPN+, which debuted in April 2018 and quickly signed up more than 1 million subscribers. ESPN+ leverages BamTech’s video streaming, commerce engine, dynamic ad insertion technology, and the data collection needed to personalize consumer experiences.
The Disney streaming service is slated to debut by the end of the year, and it will include both original content and material from Disney's unparalleled film and TV library for family viewing. After Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox closes, it will have not only its vast library at its disposal but also the rights to more premium titles such as Avatar, X-Men, and National Geographic. Disney will also have a majority stake in Hulu, which already has 25 million subscribers for its streaming and live TV services.
In 2016, Disney became the first movie studio to ever cross the $7 billion mark at the box office, proving the prescience and savvy of CEO Bob Iger's strategy of growing the Disney empire by acquiring companies like Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Marvel. Films from those companies—Finding Dory, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, and Star Wars: Rogue One—led Disney to box office gold. Disney has consistently made interesting creative decisions, like hiring indie director Gareth Edwards to direct Rogue One, and tapping Jon Favreau to reimagine The Jungle Book, another high grosser. Meanwhile, Disney Animation continued its winning streak with the original titles Zootopia and Moana. Characters from these films are fueling the Disney machine as it expands ever further: The $5.5 billion Disney Shanghai resort opened in 2016, paving the way for the Disney brand to grow in China. Like all media companies, Disney is struggling with slowing growth at its cable brands, namely ESPN, but it is finding innovative ways to help draw young, male viewers back into the fold. In 2016, it invested an additional $400 million (to its original $200 million) in Vice, whose programming will be shared with ESPN across digital, mobile, and TV.