Is the Force still with Disney? Can BritBox strike back?

Disney shares are up again, but the stakes are getting big. Can the Brits get a look in?

Article updated: 13 November 2019 11:00am Author: Michael Baxter

“Have you ever been to a place called Cornwall?” Or so I was asked once at a conference I attended in the US. It turned out, that my questioner was a big fan of the TV series Poldark — and it had put Cornwall on his radar as a potential holiday destination.

What has that got to do with another sparkling set of results from Disney and its plans to move in on Netflix’s turf? Well, I’ll tell you; it’s BritBox, the joint venture between BBC, ITV and now Channel Four.

Netflix has a market cap of $127 billion, ITV a market cap of £5.57 billion. Disney is just short of being double the size of Netflix. Apple and Amazon are of course a lot bigger than Disney, but the TV/movie/subscription TV market is not core to their businesses.

Can ITV close the gap? I think it can, but boy does it need to get its act together.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Poirot, but I must say that in terms of quality content, the BBC has been running rings around ITV lately. Have you seen the mini TV series ‘Our World War’ on the BBC iplayer? I thought it was a superb series.

Talking of war, a business war is unraveling in the pay TV market. I am not sure how big the potential is, I suspect that most households will sign up to two services eventually — but this creates dilemmas. What don’t you sign up to? Or do you keep switching?

Amazon have got the Picard series coming out — right at the top of my viewing priorities for next year.

Disney have got an extraordinary lineup. For example, it’s got its Star Wars Kenobi series starring Ewan McGregor — although in the era of deep fakes, I am at a loss to understand why Alec Guinness isn’t in it. The Marvel franchise, which thanks to the purchase of 20th Century Fox, has expanded, seems to make gold mines look trivial.

But wait until you hear what’s lined up for 2027, via 20th Century Fox/Disney. Are you ready? Well, get ready, here is the news...
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I’ll put you out of your misery, it’s only Avatar V.

Okay, I am being a tad facetious, I quite liked the original Avatar, but don’t give two hoots about Avatar V.

The point is though, the Disney proposition is looking formidable. It has this massive advantage over its competitors — the TV subscription service will be supported by the equally lucrative theme parks and equally lucrative film studios.

Netflix can’t match that, nor can Amazon nor Apple — although Amazon does have a wider package to sell.

Is the Force with Disney? I would say yes, but with one doubt. Nothing lasts forever. When I was a kid, for about a year, I was a big fan of Marvel comics, then one day I got bored with them. Both the Marvel and Star Wars franchises may run out of juice eventually — regression to the mean may strike.

HBO messed up the final season of Game of Thrones, Disney is equally capable of messing up its so valuable franchises.

Maybe Netflix have got some stonking good series lined up. The Crown has got a nice bit of controversy.

But of late, I have been like the Prodigal son returning to the BBC — which has really raised its game, in my opinion.

ITV needs to match the BEEB, like it used to, like it was doing quite recently. If it can, then in combination with the BBC’s content, BritBox can compete with Netflix and Disney, because worldwide, when it is at its best, British made content is massively popular.

ITV’s market cap would rocket.

It’s a British disease that is holding it back though, too many reasons why not and not enough reasons why it can.


These views are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of The Share Centre, its officers and employees

Michael Baxter portrait photo
Michael Baxter

Economics Commentator

Michael is an economics, investment and technology writer, known for his entertaining style. He has previously been a full-time investor, founder of a technology company which was floated on the NASDAQ, and a director of a PR company specialising in IT.

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