The paidContent 50: The Most Successful Digital Media Companies In The U.S.

11. Walt Disney

Walt Disney

U.S. 2010 digital revenue: $1 billion-plus

Snapshot: Disney’s digital operations span an array of sectors. ABCNews.com and ESPN.com are leaders in online news and sports, respectively; Club Penguin is the top virtual world for kids; and Playdom is a top social-game developer on Facebook and MySpace.

Key digital move in 2010: Disney made a big move in the social-game space in July when it agreed to pay more than $750 million to purchase Playdom. The company is trying to capitalize on the growth in social and mobile games and has been focusing on those businesses while at the same time de-emphasizing its struggling video game console business. Shortly after purchasing Playdom, Disney reorganized top management at its interactive media group, replacing longtime head Steve Wadsworth with Playdom CEO John Pleasants and former Yahoo Media head Jimmy Pitaro. They have started to restructure the unit, laying off 7 percent of the staff; 200 from video games, 80 from online. Disney, however, has a long way to go if it ever hopes to rival Zynga, which has more than 10 times as many users of its games than Playdom does, according to AppData.

How we generated our estimate: The company said a year ago that its digital revenues had “nicely exceeded” $2 billion. That total, however, included online bookings at Disney’s theme parks. The year prior, Disney CFO Tom Staggs told us the company’s revenues from “internet advertising, paid content, digital downloads, that sort of thing” were $930 million.

A $1 billion estimate in 2010 seems reasonable. The company’s interactive media business reported sales of $761 million during the company’s fiscal year 2010. That division, however, includes Disney Interactive Studios, which produces games for consoles and which Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan estimates is a $500 million business. It also does not include online assets that are part of other Disney divisions — ABC, ESPN, Disney Networks, and the movie studios.