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


41. Walt Disney

Diversified, United States (Public)

Last year’s rank: #11

Digital Content Revenue

$1,000,000,000 (2% of total)

Digital Snapshot

Like other large media and entertainment companies, the Walt Disney Co.’s digital assets are spread across divisions: the Disney Interactive Media Group (DIMG), which includes Playdom, Disney Online (, Mom and Family Portfolio), Disney Online Studios (Club Penguin, other virtual worlds) and Disney Mobile (Tapulous, Disney); Disney Media Networks — the Disney–ABC Television Group and ESPN manage their own apps, sites, etc., and distribution; The Walt Disney Studios (includes home entertainment sales/distribution); Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Studios, ); Disney Consumer Products (includes Digital Publishing, `Marvel Publishing); The Disney Music Group (licenses digital distribution).

Key Move

CEO Bob Iger’s contract extension set a finite date for his retirement. Iger has set the tone on digital, saying “yes” to Steve Jobs and iTunes in 2005 just days after becoming CEO and later signing off on big digital investments like Playdom and Club Penguin, while recognizing that a considerable part of the value of acquiring Marvel Entertainment would be in its digital assets. Iger has yet to crack making a profit from the Disney Interactive Media Group, where Jimmy Pitaro and John Pleasant continue to whittle down losses while nudging up its revenue but the group remains the most consistent underperformer at Disney.

Our Methodology

During the company’s Q4 earnings call, CEO Bob Iger said the company gets more than $1 billion from digital revenue, but he wouldn’t be more specific. (That excludes excludes theme park sales, which would bring it well beyond $2 billion.) The Digital Interactive Media Group, which includes, Club Penguin, mobile and games, accounted for $982 million in revenue for fiscal year 2011 (with losses of $308 million). The group does not include digital revenue from ESPN, ABC or Marvel; it does include console games. Iger described the income from off-network sales as “relatively modest” compared to overall revenues. It’s hard to believe Disney is producing less digital revenue than its media peers so we are inclined to believe the amount was closer to $1.2 billion or more. But, without confirmation, will have to go by Iger’s comments.

Source: Q4 2012 earnings call

— Staci D. Kramer



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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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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