In the #Disney edition of the family-feud inducing board game, Monopoly, players can purchase well-known entertainment properties instead of houses, including the likes of Toy Story, Wall-E and Finding Nemo.
Ironically, although the board game focuses on fantasy, the process mimics Disney's real-life approach to business: Pass go, collect $200, purchase Pixar, purchase #Marvel, collect multiple billions along the path toward owning the entertainment industry and park for free (okay, maybe not that one).
The Disney juggernaut continues to charge its way around the metaphorical board, buying out the competition along the way. However, should they purchase the latest property under their watchful eye, it could have a significant impact on the entertainment industry; according to Tech Crunch, next on the list of Disney targets is the mammoth streaming service — #Netflix.
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Yes, in an antidote to current affairs that spell doom and gloom, we could be entering a joyous world where Disney properties are available to stream on everybody's favorite website. Think the entire Star Wars collection. All of the #MCU. A back catalogue of #Pixar animations. All is good. All is well. Or is it?
Although the idea of Disney properties becoming readily available is, on a micro level, massively appealing, the bigger picture suggests this is bad news. During Disney CEO Bob Iger's reign, the corporation has swallowed up some of the film industry's biggest players. In 2006, they acquired Pixar for $7.4 billion. In 2009, they bought Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion, followed by LucasFilm at a similar price three years later.
The resulting monopolization is paying dividends. This year, Disney broke their own record of international box office takings, smashing through the $3.5 billion barrier by October — that's not including the recent success of the MCU's mystic maestro, Doctor Strange, and the upcoming Star Wars anthology, Rogue One. In short, blockbuster movies are dominated by Disney.
Such is their hold on Hollywood, the diverse set of films helping to break the bank over recent years include the Avengers ensemble, Captain America: Civil War ($1.153 billion), Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($2.068 billion), Zootopia ($1.023 billion) and Finding Dory ($1.011 billion).
Sometimes, it's easy to forget that the movie industry is still profit-seeking, and in the capitalist game, monopolization is a tool for the few, not for the many. A 2011 study by blogger Frugal Dad outlined that a shocking 90% of all media consumed in the US is owned by a total of just six companies, compared to 50 companies in 1983. Further still, a revealing infographic explained that:
- In 2010, the combined box office takings of the big six was $7 billion, twice the amount of the combined total of the next 140 studios.
- 232 media executives control the information that 277 million Americans digest.
- In 2010 the revenue for the big six was $275.9 billion, $36 billion more than Finland's GDP.
- Those same six companies own 70% of television (3,762 companies own the other 30%).
Aside from Disney, the other five companies are GE (owning Universal Pictures and Focus Features), News-Corp (Fox, Wall Street Journal), Viacom (MTV, Paramount Pictures), Time Warner (CNN, Warner Bros.) and CBS (Showtime). In October, Telecommunications company AT&T purchased Time Warner for $85 billion, making them a serious heavyweight in media ownership.
Disney: Monopolizing The Entertainment Industry
If you type "entertainment monopolization" into Google, the top results refer to Disney's dominance in the industry. Acquiring Netflix would only enhance that. With 86 million subscribers and over $6 billion in yearly revenue, the service has helped revolutionize the way in which films and TV are digested by audiences.
With control of both production and distribution, Disney would have immeasurable power, with the option of funnelling interest — and profit — into their own properties. Of course, the idea of beloved franchises being more accessible is appealing, but the tendency could sway toward favoritism, crippling competitors and limiting creative freedom.
For audiences, though, this would only compound what is referred to as the "illusion of choice." Applied to the entertainment industry, this is the illusion you are choosing to invest in different products owned by different companies, when in reality, all of your money is going to the same place. Your favorite animation, superhero movie, Star Wars movie or Netflix original TV series could all end up being controlled by one company.
In general economics, monopolization is suffocating. In a report by the Atlantic, innovation has suffered as a result of big corporations taking more and more control, with the number of new entrepreneurial ventures reducing decade on decade. Apply this to movie studios, and the more concentrated the industry, the less likely smaller, independent studios will ever be able to compete.
Films have a huge impact on individual lives, as well as an important role in how we view the world. Consequently, diversity in the industry — as well as the space for emerging talents and varied views on the world — is key.
Netflix is a powerhouse in their own right, but should Disney take control, they'd be one step closer to world dominance.