Will Copying Disney Make Time Warner a Winner?

If the headlines are to be believed, Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) will soon start production on a film starring its own team of DC superheroes: The Justice League of America.

For the uninitiated, DC's Justice League is akin to The Avengers -- each is a composed of well-known superheroes from each character universe. Batman and Superman headline the JLA, with Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and The Martian Manhunter comprising the remainder of the original team.

We've known for a while that DC Entertainment wants a JLA film. What's different now? First, Marvel's The Avengers just ended its box office run at $1.46 billion in worldwide receipts.

Second, this week brought rumors that actor Ben Affleck, whose superhero cinema credits include starring in 2003's Daredevil, was Warner's first choice as director for a Justice League film. Affleck's representatives have since denied he has any interest in the project, but we know from earlier reports that Warner has hired screenwriter Will Beall to develop a JLA script.

DC Entertainment has good reason to want to cash in on JLA soon. Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) subsidiary Marvel Studios has secured Avengers writer-director Joss Whedon for a sequel, helping the House of Mouse build a pipeline of potential franchises in the making.

Superhero titles have also lent strength to an otherwise flagging video game market. New data from market researcher NPD Group shows video game sales declined by double digits for the eighth consecutive month in July. Industry revenue fell 20% year over year to $548.4 million.

Warner's newest "Lego Batman" title is among the rare winners out there today. Over at Amazon.com, two of Warner's other Batman-themed games -- Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City -- rank in the top-50 sellers in video games.

Rival publishers Activision Blizzard (Nasdaq: ATVI  ) and Electronic Arts (NYSE: EA  ) have their own hits, of course. But they've also become dependent on new online games, especially now that Activision is finding it difficult to keep members engaged with its signature World of Warcraft franchise. In EA's case, the opportunity is important enough that the company is suing Zynga (Nasdaq: ZNGA  ) for copyright infringement. Warner's various Internet bets include the DC Universe Online multiplayer game.

Could a JLA movie equal the success of Marvel's The Avengers? I've my doubts, but the quest for franchises will go on so long as there are billions at stake. Zynga knows this all too well having created its own series of "ville" franchises on Facebook -- from FarmVille to CityVille to CastleVille, and more.

Can the company keep momentum in light of EA's suit? A new premium research report examines both the opportunities and risks facing Zynga in the years ahead. Sign up today and you'll not only get the report, but also free quarterly updates.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares Time Warner and Walt Disney at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home, portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Activision Blizzard and Walt Disney. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Activision Blizzard and Walt Disney. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a synthetic long position in Activision Blizzard. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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