The most crucial difference between Michael Eisner and his successor at Disney, Bob Iger turns out to be a belief in building around franchises. The buzzword from Eisner was always synergy, code word for cooperation between divisions. Iger came from a background in network TV where a “television franchise” could sustain advertising for years and then turn around and reap a ton of profit with little or no effort in syndication. That Iger has been able to make that business model work in movies and theme parks accounts for much of the company’s success since he took over.
While some of those franchises were based on internal assets (Pirates of the Caribbean, Tinker Bell and her fairy friends), a large portion of the success can be attributed to purchases of companies with assets of their own that Iger figured he could align to Disney’s values (although sometimes the fit has not been all that comfortable).
Actually, maybe the credit should go to Eisner after all. He got the acquisition ball rolling with the purchase of The Muppets in 2004. Iger brought on Pixar in 2006, Marvel in 2009, and Lucasfilm in 2012. There’s some good analysis of the trend over on Forbes. The column also makes the connection on how these last three purchases go a long way to solving the “boy problem” Disney was suffering. It could make movies for boys, but struggled with product sales or converting them into theme park visits. With Pirates, Cars, and assorted Marvel films, that is no longer a problem.
For all these reasons, The Walt Disney Company looks to be a healthy investment for the foreseeable future. What do you think?