The Walt Disney Company (DIS) has built a diverse empire since its beginning in the 1920s, creating a huge range of lucrative products in a number of marketplaces. As the largest mass media conglomerate in the world, Disney is best known for its film and TV productions and theme parks. Its television arm controls the ABC television network, with eight owned-and-operated broadcasting stations and over 230 affiliates, as well as a number of cable networks, including Freeform, Disney Channel and ESPN.
Walt Disney Pictures, Disney Animation and Pixar produce films for Walt Disney Studios, and Disney also owns Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm, which have become cash cows for them in the film and merchandise markets. It also has a presence in the travel industry, with the Disney Cruise line and theme parks, Walt Disney World and Disneyland, which have remained extremely popular for decades and now include foreign parks around the world.
Disney faces a number of competitors across its various markets, with Viacom (VIA), Time Warner (TWC), 21st Century Fox (FOX), Sony (SNE), CBS (CBS) and Comcast (CMCSA) being its main competitors. These companies compete with Disney's products mainly through TV, cable and other media markets such as DVD/Blue-ray, video games and the internet. The growth of multichannel video programming network distributors and cable networks has increased the competitive pressure for Disney. Contracts are renegotiated at certain points in these markets, and the rise of competition puts increased difficulty on Disney to renew the contracts with such favorable conditions as it has had in the past.
Disney also competes in the strong and lucrative sports market. It has done extremely well with sports channel ESPN, which provides 24% of its total revenues. This is due in part to the popularity of sports channels, but also to program bundling packages.
In the theme-park market, major rivals to Disney include Six Flags Entertainment (SIX), Cedar Fair (FUN), Universal Studios and Comcast. This competition has increased in recent times, particularly due to Universal's cashing in on the popularity of the Harry Potter books and movies. Universal Orlando has opened a Harry Potter-themed land in Orlando and Hollywood, which has boosted attendance numbers.
Disney's studio entertainment businesses continually manage to innovate, and profits often show this. Disney produces a range of consumer products with involvement in licensing, publishing and retail, and therefore competes with other vendors in these areas. However, according to Market Realist, Disney believes it is the largest worldwide licensor of character-based merchandise.
Recently, Disney and Fox made headlines when it was revealed that Disney had been negotiating with 21st Century Fox to acquire some of Fox's assets, particularly its film studio and the streaming service Hulu, in order to create a competitor to Netflix.
According to its annual 2016 report, Disney showed a revenue increase of 6.79% year-over-year. While Disney's profits do fluctuate, in part due to seasonality and timing of releases, it remains a massive presence in several industries and one that most people identify with when they think of animated films and theme parks.
For related reading, check out How Disney (DIS) Has Managed to Deliver for Decades.