paidContent 50: The world’s most successful digital media companies


25. Activision Blizzard

Games, United States (Public)

Last year’s rank: #15

Digital Content Revenue

$1,559,000,000 (34% of total)

Digital Snapshot

War is hell — but not for Activision Blizzard. The latest in its popular Call Of Duty franchise, Modern Warfare 3, was the most popular game of 2011 in Europe and the U.S., in what was otherwise another poor year for game sales. The firm earned more than a third of its money through new digital retail channels.

Key Move

Now Acti-Bliz is looking even further beyond the box. Having picked up 10.2 million paying monthly users of its World Of Warcraft, it introduced its new Call Of Duty Elite network and picked up 1.5 million paying subscribers out of seven million users. All in all, a third of Activision Blizzard’s money came from subscriptions. That kind of revenue dependability is welcome, and makes it look increasingly like a cable TV company, not a game publisher.

Our Methodology

By distribution channel, Vivendi reported €1,559,000,000 in “digital online channels” revenue for Activision-Blizzard: “Includes revenues from subscriptions and memberships, licensing royalties, value-added services, downloadable content, digitally distributed products and wireless devices.” Separately, by platform, it reported €1,155,000,000 in “online subscriptions” revenue: “Includes all revenues generated by World of Warcraft products, including subscriptions, boxed software, expansion packs, licensing royalties and value-added services. It also includes revenues from Call of Duty Elite memberships.”

Source: Vivendi 2011 annual report, p 146

— RA



Tripadvisor is all digital media and is around $750 M in yearly revenue and should likely be included on this list.

Arsenal Highlights

Good Job Mr. Robert

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And google has done this algorithm change to spread their digital ads business nothing than this.

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If you want to rank things on revenue, fine. But then don’t call it the ‘Most Succesful List’: Microsoft might ‘make’ $3.9b on digital content, but it also loses around $3b every year too.


Thomson Reuters?! After Eikon failure & loss of half staff..? Are you mad.


What makes me wonder ist, taht there under th etzop 50 is not a single company from Germany. Germany is the biggest market in EUropa, but no German Hundefutter among the big player. I don’t buy that.

Abdallah Al-Hakim

I think this is a terrific list despite any reservations some people have about the methodology. It really demonstrates the huge growth potential of digital media companies in some of the emerging markets. Also, as a scientist – I note Elsevier being top 5 in revenue (Elsevier is publisher behind many of the top scientific journals).

Rick Noel

Google+ is a big strategy shift for Google and could, if executed well, become another digital revenue stream ti augment the search cash cow.


What about Valve and their digital games platform: Steam. I know they are a private company and figures are hard to come by but in 2011 Forbes reckoned they have more than 50% of the 4 billion dollar PC games download market. That is huge.

I would really love to see Paid Content do some investigation on Valve because they are an incredibly innovative company who really push digital retailing to its limits.


Groupon and Monster are’t really media companies. I’m not even sure that ad agencies should qualify in the same category as Viacom or Time Warner. Totally different business model.


Why is eBay not in this list? They have an ad business on and their classified sites, and the seller fees they collect are essentially paid ads since the platform doesn’t handle the items. This list is also missing Alibaba Group from China (including Taobao), and Gree from Japan.


Does this list distinguish between companies that charge users for access and those that do not, or was that weighted in the rankings?

Zato Gibson

“Creating this list wasn’t easy.”

I can imagine. Manipulating the numbers to get Microsoft into the top 10 must have been really tough.


Yes, but they still should have had time to comment on the fact that MSN is no longer part of Microsoft and hasn’t been for several weeks. Sure that means they get to claim the revenue for this year but at least point out that they won’t have it next year.

Robert Andrews

The Microsoft profile page says: “Microsoft recently sold its stake in”
And the research period for all companies here predates that sale.
Any revenue change as a result will be reflected in next year’s pC50.

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