Get ready, comic book fans!
Disney's (NYSE: DIS ) Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premieres on Sept. 24, to much fanfare on the company's ABC network.
And yep, that's Clark Gregg in the middle, reprising his role as the beloved Agent Phil Coulson -- you know, the guy Thor's brother Loki so shockingly stabbed to death in The Avengers, and whose reappearance in AoS was enough to spawn a ridiculously popular #CoulsonLives hashtag on Twitter.
Better yet, the first official trailer for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has already shown us the show isn't being planned as a prequel to last year's largest box office hit, with one of the primary characters even referencing Coulson's death before the action even begins:
To be sure, The Avengers ended up raking in more than $1.5 billion worldwide at the box office last summer, effectively securing its place behind only Avatar and Titanic as the third-highest grossing movie of all time.
What's more, The Avengers set dozens of records in the process, most notably including the highest-ever opening weekend gross, highest 10-day gross, and the fastest movie to reach the $500 million mark after just 23 days.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Disney has already confirmed at least two more Avengers sequels are in the works, with the next film set for release in May 2015.
Here's why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D could be even more important
Though Disney is also set continue its box-office domination through Thor: The Dark World in November, followed by Captain America: The Winter Soldier next April, that still leaves some awfully big shoes to fill for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the meantime.
And you know what? I think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is more than capable of doing so.
In fact, there are a number of reasons to believe this compelling new show could prove itself even more important to Disney over the long run than its box-office counterparts in the Avengers franchise.
After all, pumping out big-budget movies can mean relatively chunky, unpredictable revenue over the short term, but Disney's Media Networks perennially stand alone as its single, largest source of revenue and operating income.
Last quarter, for example, Disney's Media Networks achieved 5% year-over-year revenue growth to $5.35 billion, representing more than 46% of the company's total sales. Even more important, Media Networks also grew operating income by 8% over the same period to $2.3 billion, or more than 68% of Disney's total in Q2.
Meanwhile, even on the heels of Iron Man 3, the Studio Entertainment segment last quarter achieved revenue of only $1.59 billion and operating income of $201 million.
On one hand, though, much of the Media Networks growth came thanks to decent performances from Disney's stakes in ESPN, A&E, and the domestic Disney Channels. ABC, on the other hand, lost ground and will soon suffer through a resulting layoff of about 2% of its staff, or around 175 employees.
As a result, it's safe to say if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. performs well, it could do wonders to prop up the one weak link in Disney's Media Networks, helping the segment to fire on all cylinders and further solidify the entire business.
But that's a lot of pressure!
So what else does Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have going for it?
Well, aside from the obvious broad consumer appeal nearly every Marvel property brings, note that The Avengers writer and director Joss Whedon has also signed on as the series' co-creator and executive producer, at least until pre-production on The Avengers 2 gets under way next March.
What's more, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will enjoy leadership from two executive producers in Jeffrey Bell, who previously wrote for The X-Files and Alias, and none other than Jeph Loeb, who not only currently serves as head of Marvel Television, but whose previous credits also include Smallville, LOST, Heroes, and major comic book work on Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man, Wolverine, Batman, and Superman.
And with no less than 9,000 distinct characters in the Marvel Universe, there's virtually no end to the possible cameos, storylines, and character offshoots this series could ultimately spawn over the course of what could end up quite literally being decades of superhero-centric TV entertainment from Disney.
Finally, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should also afford Disney the opportunity to profit down the road through royalties as well as physical and digital media sales.
All things considered, that's why I'm convinced this show could prove even bigger to Disney than its big-screen counterparts.
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