Walt Disney has expired the rights to the Mickey Mouse character. What will be the impact on the value of the company?

Walt Disney is the largest international conglomerate in the mass media and entertainment industry. In the last 15 years, he has acquired the rights to some of the best media franchises. However, even this "dream factory" does not avoid problems. As of early 2024, the company lost the rights to the iconic Mickey Mouse cartoon character that catapulted the company, and since then new creations, licenses and acquisitions by major companies have snowballed.

Mickey Mouse, who is the work of Walt Disney, the founder of the company, first appeared on November 18 1928 in an animated film called " Steamboat Willie". Over the course of its 90 years of existence, this character has changed significantly in appearance and personality, reflecting cultural values and trends in animation. Disney succeeded in pushing through changes in copyright laws in 1976 and then in 1998 that extended copyright protection first to 50 and then to 70 years after the author's death. However, in January 2024, the copyright expired and Mickey Mouse, and with him Minnie, officially became public domain in the United States. Their original form is now freely available for use without fear of copyright infringement However, it should be noted that this is only the earliest version, the more modern forms remain the property of Disney. The Mickey Mouse character is worth an estimated $7.6 billion, making him one of the most valuable fictional characters in the world, including movies, theme parks, promotional items, and various licensing deals.

What will be the impact for Disney?

Walt Disney's market value is around $166 billion as of today. So, losing the rights to a single iteration of their iconic character will have almost no effect on the overall value of the company and its revenue. In March 2019, the company bought film studio 21st Century Fox for US$71.3 billion, their largest acquisition to date. Disney also owns 80 percent of the ESPN sports network and various other television networks, including ABC, A&E, The History Channel and Lifetime. The company also acquired Pixar (2006) Marvel Entertainment (2009) and Lucasfilm (2012), giving it control over a huge number of film and television properties, including Avengers, Star Wars, X- Men, The The Simpsons and others. The successful colossus also includes the music label Hollywood Records and the company Steamboat Ventures, which invests in various companies in the technology, media and consumer industries.

Earnings for the past period

Disney's total revenue for fiscal 2023 rose 7 percent from the prior period. Key was Disney+ subscriber growth of nearly 7 million in Q4. During the same period, the company saw experience operating profit grow by more than 30 percent compared to the previous quarter. In addition, Disney plans to aggressively manage costs to achieve annual savings of $7.5 billion. The company's CEO, Robert Iger, expressed a positive view of the results and highlighted progress in rebuilding the business, which has had three challenging pandemic years of underperformance. Current savings and a strong financial position should enable investment and shareholder goals to be achieved in the coming period. [1]


At the forefront of streaming

Although Disney+ subscribers continue to see good growth, competition in the streaming space is fierce. Netflix is expected to overtake Disney+ in the battle for ad dollars in the United States this year, according to a report from Insider Intelligence. The streaming giant's ad revenue is forecast to grow 50.3 percent to about $1 billion, while Disney+ is expected to grow 16.1 percent to about $912 million in 2024. The prediction highlights Netflix's success in the fight against password sharing and price increases that attracted nearly 9 million new subscribers. Still, Disney could narrow that gap with the growing implementation of an advertising model and the merging of Disney+ and Hulu into one app. The report also suggests that roughly 5 percent of US Netflix subscribers are exposed to ads, compared to 17 percent for Disney Plus, with an expected increase to about one-fifth for Disney and a slight increase to 7.5 percent for Netflix next year. [2]

The pandemic forced Disney to adjust its business strategy

The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a significant increase in viewership on streaming platforms as people were forced to spend a lot of time in their homes. Disney+ has gained more than 60.5 million subscribers in just 10 months since its launch. At the time of the pandemic, Disney shares were at their all-time highs. The company adjusted its business strategy to bet more on streaming as cinemas were closed and adjusted its content production accordingly. This strategy seems to have paid off for her, given that releasing films in theaters is much more expensive from a distribution and marketing point of view than putting them on a streaming platform.

Redundancies in order to reduce operating costs

On the contrary, the pandemic has seriously affected other business sectors. According to the report " The Impact of COVID-19 at Disneyland” by Haochen Zhang, the Walt Disney Company had approximately 203 thousand employees as of October 3, 2020. Of these, about 155,000 worked in the parks, entertainment and products segment. Outages due to the pandemic had a negative effect on the segment's sales and the entire company. In the spring of 2023, 3 waves of large layoffs occurred successively in the conglomerate, which were part of Disney's efforts to achieve roughly 5.5 billion USD in savings. In total, about 7,000 employees were laid off, which represents 3.2 percent of the total number of 220,000 employees as of October 1, 2022. Nevertheless, Walt Disney still maintains a strong position in the market, and it looks like, considering the well-started financial indicators at the same time , the development curve of the company's value on the stock exchange could soon return to the green numbers.[3] At the moment, the development of shares on the stock exchange has been recording red numbers for a long time and is well below its highs from 2021.*

Snímek obrazovky 2024-01-15 v 10.29.10

Walt Disney stock price performance over the past 5 years. (Source: Google Finance) *

Olivia Lacenová , Principal Analyst at Wonderinterest Trading Ltd.

* Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

[1,2,3] Forward-looking statements are based on assumptions and current expectations, which may be inaccurate, or the current economic environment, which may change. Such statements are not guarantees of future performance. They involve risks and other uncertainties that are difficult to predict. Results may differ materially from those expressed or implied by any forward-looking statements.

This text constitutes marketing communication. It is not any form of investment advice or investment research or an offer for any transactions in financial instrument. Its content does not take into consideration individual circumstances of the readers, their experience or financial situation. The past performance is not a guarantee or prediction of future results.

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