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The Walt Disney Company (DIS) is one of the largest media and entertainment companies in the world, operating a vast international industry of television networks, film studios, and theme parks.

Key Business Segments

Disney's three largest business segments are its TV business, its theme park business, and its feature film business. These segments include some of the best-known companies in the United States and around the world, including ABC, ESPN, Disneyland, Lucasfilm, and Marvel. On December 14, 2017, Disney announced that it would acquire multiple assets from 21st Century Fox (FOX) for a landmark $52.4 billion. Following news of the acquisition, Comcast Corporation (CMCSA) entered the fray with a $65 billion offer. On June 20, 2018 Disney raised their Fox bid to $71.3 billion and acquired a large portion of 21st Century Fox's assets on July 27, 2018. On November 19, Disney reported that it had received unconditional approval from Chinese regulators for its acquisition of 21st Century Fox.

Shortly after the 21st Century Fox acquisition, Disney began a strategic reorganization that consolidated its consumer products and interactive media business under the parks and resorts umbrella and carved out a separate business segment for direct-to-consumer operations. Here are just a few of the mouse house's biggest companies.

1. Disney/ABC Television Group

Disney/ABC Television Group operates Disney's broadcast television, cable television, and radio businesses. The company's broadcast television businesses include ABC Studios, ABC News, and the ABC Television Network, which deliver programming to more than 200 local television affiliates across the country. Disney/ABC Television Group also operates eight local television stations in some of the country's biggest media markets. On the cable side, Disney/ABC Television Group operates the ABC Family channel and Disney Channels Worldwide, a unit that includes more than 100 Disney-branded cable networks reaching 164 countries and territories around the world.

Disney/ABC Television Group also has equity stakes in three independently operated media businesses: A&E Television Networks, Hulu, and Fusion Media Network. A&E Television Networks is an equally held joint venture with the Hearst Corporation that operates a variety of cable channels including A&E, History and Lifetime. Disney/ABC Television Group formerly had a 30% stake in Hulu, an online streaming video service featuring ABC Studios content, but its control of the company increased to 60% after acquiring 21st Century Fox. Fusion is another of Disney's joint ventures, equally held with Univision Communications. The multi-platform media company is targeted at Hispanic Americans.

2. ESPN, Inc.

ESPN is a sports media and entertainment company with eight cable networks in the U.S. and another 16 television networks internationally. Disney holds a controlling 80% stake in ESPN, with the remaining 20% of the company held by Hearst Corporation. In addition to its television properties, ESPN operates ESPN.com, ESPN Radio, and WatchESPN. ESPN also holds a 30% stake in CTV Specialty Television, a multi-channel Canadian sports broadcaster.

3. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S., Inc.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S., Inc. operates Disneyland in California, Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, and Aulani, a spa and resort in Hawaii. These operations include numerous company-owned hotels, retail and entertainment complexes, conference centers, and indoor and outdoor recreation facilities. Walt Disney Parks & Resorts also operates Disney theme parks overseas through a handful of international subsidiaries.

Euro Disney S.A.S., the French subsidiary of Disney Parks & Resorts, owns 51% of Disneyland Paris. In China, Shanghai International Theme Park Co. controls 43% of Shanghai Disneyland Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland Management controls 47% of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. While Walt Disney Parks & Resorts does not have an ownership stake in Japan's Tokyo Disney Resort, it does earn licensing royalties from the Japanese operating company, Oriental Land Co.

In January 2019, Disney announced it would be increasing the ticket prices for its American-based theme parks by around 10%, with a regular adult one day pass at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando priced at $149, up from $135. 

4. Lucasfilm Ltd. LLC

Lucasfilm is a film production company best known for producing Star Wars and Indiana Jones, two of the highest-grossing film franchises in history. Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4.06 billion, along with the production company's subsidiary businesses including Industrial Light and Magic, Skywalker Sound, and Lucas Licensing. Under Disney's watchful eye, the company is releasing another trio of Star Wars films and has plans to create a fifth Indiana Jones film starring Harrison Ford in 2019. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the company made back its purchase of Lucasfilm in late 2017 when The Last Jedi brought the total gross of these new Star Wars movies to $4.08 billion.

5. Marvel Entertainment, LLC

Marvel Entertainment is a media and entertainment company with operations in publishing, television, and film. Marvel is best known for its catalog of fictional characters, including Spider-Man, Captain America, and the X-Men. Disney acquired Marvel and the rights to its more than 5,000 characters in August 2009 for $4 billion. Marvel's blockbuster superhero films have gone on to be huge earners for Disney, giving the company high spots on the top 10 highest grossing movies of the year for several years in a row. Marvel Entertainment's subsidiaries include Marvel Studios, Marvel Animation, and Marvel Comics.

Key Takeaways

  • Disney is a globally-recognized household name in media and entertainment with a market cap of almost a quarter-trillion dollars.
  • In addition to a movie empire that features key trademarks such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, the company also owns Pixar, Marvel Studies (superhero movies), and LucasFilm (Star Wars).
  • Beyond the big screen, Disney also owns TV stations ABC, ESPN, and a sizable stake in 21st century Fox.
  • And, of course, don't forget about its famous theme parks.