They say there's no business like show business, but the media market can be a cutthroat industry. There's a lot of content being cranked out, making it harder to stand out among the noise.
Disney (NYSE:DIS), Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), and Roku (NASDAQ:ROKU) are thriving in this climate, and it's easy to see why. The three companies have unique advantages that help them rise above others in the eyes, ears, and ultimately pocketbooks of consumers. Let's see how the media giant, leading online video service, and streaming-media pioneer are making a difference with their secret weapons.
Disney has the perfect ecosystem
It's not a coincidence that some of the hottest movies over the past few years have been Disney's handiwork. This year's three highest-grossing movies domestically -- Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Incredibles 2 -- all came out of Disney's Buena Vista studio arm. Disney has had the top box-office draw for four consecutive years.
Acquiring Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm obviously helped, but Disney's secret weapon is its ability to promote franchises and releases through its various businesses. Let's say Disney has a new movie coming out. Just ahead of the release, you might see the franchise promoted at its theme parks. Disney is the world's largest park operator, attracting more than 150 million visitors across its dozen theme parks worldwide.
If it's a family friendly property, it's a safe bet that the hundreds of Disney Store locations will be promoting related merchandise at malls around the country. It also has ABC, Disney Channel, and ESPN to tie into its theatrical releases.
Netflix knows you
Information is power, and it's not a coincidence that folks binge on Netflix and merely watch everything else. Netflix now has a decade of streaming-video data, and that treasure trove of likes and dislikes gets bigger with every passing quarter. There are now more than 130 million streaming subscribers at Netflix worldwide, up from less than 104 million a year earlier.
A decade ago, the Netflix model centered round DVD distribution, and then it only had the data points of the handful of DVDs that you went through in any given month, along with your star rating. Netflix had no way of knowing if you even saw the actual disc or how far along you got. These days, the average subscriber takes in a lot more content, and Netflix is there with the means to track consumption and the decision process that goes into what movie or series someone jumps to next.
Netflix may have taken some ribbing for signing a four-movie deal with Adam Sandler and then doubling down on that deal last year for another four flicks, despite rough critical reviews for the first couple of entries. It knows what it's doing. Netflix has the inside track on consumption patterns, and it can make smarter decisions than armchair critics everywhere else.
Roku is platform agnostic
One of last year's hottest IPOs has gone on to more than quadruple since going public 11 months ago. Roku seems like an unlikely market thumper. It initially turned heads as the company that teamed up with Netflix to put out that dot-com darling's first streaming device a decade ago, but now it's fighting against some of the market's biggest tech companies, with big aspirations for streaming-media dominance.
Roku is more than merely competing against a universe where Fire TV, Chromecast, and Apple TV are willing to subsidize hardware for the sake of greater digital payoffs. Roku's success is coming largely because those three devices are seen as springboards for the proprietary streaming services offered by these tech behemoths.
They play nice with some rival offerings, but Roku is the free spirit that gets along well with everybody. Roku offers access to thousands of channels and services, and that makes its operating system an easy sell for smart TVs looking for a proven interface that doesn't get into the politics of the three tech titans fighting it out for a market that Roku is quietly stealing from underneath their floating feet.