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3 Reasons Disney Will Be an Unstoppable Wrecking Ball of a Stock

By Nicholas Rossolillo - Updated Oct 19, 2018 at 9:19AM

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In a world where disruptive technology is all the rage, don’t forget the incredible power of intellectual property.

By now, you've probably heard the news: Walt Disney (DIS -1.20%) is acquiring assets from 21st Century Fox (FOX)(FOXA) for $71 billion. The deal has been approved by shareholders and U.S. regulators, and the last major hurdle is a review by the European Commission that is scheduled to be complete by Nov. 6. Should everything go according to plan, Disney's already formidable empire could become a wrecking ball in the entertainment industry.

Box-office prowess

All by itself, Disney wields a lot of power as a movie studio. The company acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm in the last decade, and now, with the addition of Fox titles like Avatar, Disney will own the rights to 12 of the top 20 highest-global grossing films of all time. If combined in 2017, Disney and Fox would have taken home 35% of the $11.1 billion in domestic ticket sales.

Top 10 Highest-Grossing Films of All Time

Total Worldwide Gross

Studio Owner


$2.79 billion



$2.19 billion


Star Wars: The Force Awakens

$2.07 billion


Avengers: Infinity War

$2.05 billion


Jurassic World

$1.67 billion


Marvel's The Avengers

$1.52 billion


Furious 7

$1.52 billion


Avengers: Age of Ultron

$1.41 billion


Black Panther

$1.35 billion


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

$1.34 billion

Time Warner (now AT&T)

Chart data: Box Office Mojo.

Disney's movies could continue to hold the top spots for some time. The movie studio has three potential record-breakers in production slated to come out in the next few years. In 2019, the final installment of The Avengers and the conclusion of the original Star Wars storyline started over 40 years ago both hit theaters -- the former in May, and the latter in December. In 2020, the next chapter in the current worldwide ticket receipts record holder Avatar comes out over the holidays.

Add to that dozens of other titles and characters it has already with the Fox treasure trove, and Disney looks like it will be the studio to beat at movie theaters for a long time.

A group of young people eating popcorn and drinking soda at a movie theater.

Image source: Getty Images.

Streaming TV is on notice

Netflix is in the driver seat in the streaming TV industry. The early mover just surpassed 130 million paying subscribers worldwide -- with 57 million of those in the U.S. -- putting the company on track to exceed $15 billion in revenue in 2018. Disney could narrow the gap quickly, though.

First, there's Hulu, which Disney will own two-thirds of after it takes Fox's one-third of the pie. -All of Fox's R-rated and mature-audience content will stay put there. Hulu said it surpassed 20 million users in the U.S. earlier in 2018.

Then there's ESPN+, the new sports streaming service Disney launched in the spring of 2018 for $5 a month. That service just passed one million subscribers, one of the fastest streaming offerings to achieve that mark.

Things could really ramp up, though, when Disney launches its flagship streaming service bearing its namesake the second half of 2019. Disney is known for family-friendly content, including Star Wars, the Marvel universe, and Pixar films, all of which will be available exclusively on the new service -- plus brands like National Geographic from Fox. CEO Bob Iger has said that means about 500 films and over 7,000 TV show episodes.

Additionally, Iger says to expect about four to five TV series and three to four movies to launch exclusive to Disney's own streaming platform. One of those is a live-action 10-episode Star Wars show. Whether the sci-fi fantasy brand is your thing or not, it's easy to get excited about it as an investor given the fan base. Solo: A Star Wars story recently left theaters as the worst-performing film in the franchise with domestic box office sales of $214 million. Let's use that as a benchmark to measure interest in Disney's upcoming internet offering. 

According to Box Office Mojo, the average theater ticket has been $9.14 in 2018. Dividing Solo's receipts by the average ticket price means 23.4 million tickets were sold in the U.S. Even if a few million of those were the same people going to see the film several times, that's still a respectable audience at around 20 million, plus or minus a couple million.

If just a fraction of that number end up subscribing to Disney's service just to see the new live-action Star Wars show before the release of Episode IX in December, that could be a big jump-start for a Disney-branded service. When adding in domestic Hulu and ESPN+ subscribers, Disney could jump to the No. 2 internet TV provider, just behind Netflix, in short order late next year.

The power of synergy

One of the complaints against Disney gobbling up Fox is the potential for layoffs. Disney said that synergy and cost savings will shave off at least $2 billion in expenses by 2021 -- a big number considering Disney and Fox's combined operating expenses were $15 billion over the last year. Disney says most of that expense cut will come from "cost savings" (read: layoffs). However, it's possible that Disney could wind up creating other jobs as a result of the merger. Someone is going to have to create those exclusive movies and TV shows for the new streaming service.

To add weight to that, Disney just agreed to a $15 billion bonus from its acquisition. Before Disney defeated Comcast in its bid for Fox, Fox was in a bidding war of its own against Comcast for British cable operator Sky. Fox lost, and it has agreed to sell its existing minority stake in Sky to Comcast.

Disney says it will use the $15 billion to pay down its debt, which will give it more flexibility to spend money on new content. Paired with $2 billion in synergies, Disney will have a lot of extra cash flowing to the bottom line, plus money to expand its content creation and marketing to build out its streaming portfolio and catch up to Netflix. So, maybe, new jobs are coming.

Either way, Disney and Fox teaming up looks like it could be an unstoppable force in the entertainment world. Of course, there is a lot that needs to happen first, including final sign-off from all government regulators on the deal as well as Disney's execution of the integration process. Nevertheless, if all goes according to plan, by 2021, Disney's already massive empire will have gotten a whole lot bigger -- and more profitable.

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