When Disney (DIS) shelled out $4.2 billion for Marvel studios in 2009, analysts questioned whether Disney overpaid for the property.
Just like it did when it acquired Pixar, Disney got a heck of a deal — grabbing the rights to what will literally be generations of content that it can exploit across its multitude of revenue-generating sectors. Critics of the deal wondered how Disney would establish some of the lesser-known characters and turn them into viable franchises.
At this point, I think Marvel has made it clear.
Marvel’s strategy for its cinematic universe obviously is going to be the same as its comic book strategy — introduce lots of heroes and run them all for decades. And while we associate certain superheroes with certain actors — Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man — we know the James Bond franchise allows for continual recasting. Heck, we’ve already had three actors play Bruce Banner in the last decade.
Movies will be the flagship product, but Marvel will also produce television shows. ABC is set to premiere Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., co-created by fanboy favorite Joss Whedon, who directed The Avengers. I have no idea if the show will be any good, but who cares? Even if it fails, they’ll just produce something else, since ABC is also owned by Disney. Welcome to SynergyLand! And this says nothing of all the direct-to-video, and animated TV they’re likely to do.
The only thing that can upset the apple cart is bad content, and so far, we’ve seen quite the opposite. Studio chief Kevin Feige knows about good storytelling and hires good storytellers to tell Marvel’s stories. If Feige leaves his job, or if Marvel’s corporate culture devolves away from content integrity, then Marvel will go down the tubes.
Then again, it already did once, and it rose from the dead like Ghost Rider. So who knows?
Mr. Feige has said he’s 99% concentrating on this current phase of Marvel’s production, which includes this month’s Iron Man 3 as well as the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy and second installments of Thor, Captain America and Avengers. At this point, I think it’s a slam-dunk that we’ll see Iron Man 4 and new franchises. There’s talk of Mark Ruffalo doing a stand-alone Hulk movie, and apparently, Doctor Strange is being considered. Disney also recently confirmed an Ant-Man film to be released after the Avengers sequel.
Before you ask how this could ever become a movie, all I can say is that all it takes is a really good writer to bring this oddball conceit to the screen successfully.
I can’t peg exactly how much revenue Marvel will bring to Disney. What I do know is that I rely on Feige’s vision, and his ability to choose the best writers and directors for the films Marvel produces. Even Marvel’s weaker earlier films generated a lot of revenue.
It would take a colossal set of mistakes for this endeavor to fail, and with all the outlets Disney has to make gobs of money … investors should be excited.
Which is why I own the stock.
As of this writing, Lawrence Meyers was long DIS. He is president of PDL Broker, Inc., which brokers financing, strategic investments and distressed asset purchases between private equity firms and businesses. He also has written two books and blogs about public policy, journalistic integrity, popular culture, and world affairs. Contact him at pdlca