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

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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

21 Responses to “paidContent 50: The world’s most successful digital media companies”

  1. Good Job Mr. Robert

    I am a freelancing SEO and SMM professional. The recent update of google penguin and panda has changed the SEO pattern radically.

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

    I really hate this because, making loss to others for their own profit is a Digital Crime and Weak Business policy from my view. Check my site Arsenal Highlights

  2. ciaranj

    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.

  3. 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).

  4. Mindbendingpuzzles

    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.

  5. 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.

  6. Brendan

    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.

  7. 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.