The Two New Television Shows That Will Power Disney’s Stock Higher

Chris is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

On October 30, Disney (NYSE: DIS) announced it was spending $4 billion to acquire famed “Star Wars” owner Lucasfilm. The acquisition is the second recent major purchase along with Marvel Studios that Disney has made to strengthen its movie and licensing portfolio. However, two new television shows could make an immediate impact to Disney’s struggling ABC unit and strengthen its television segment.

Disney has announced that two television shows are in the works related to Star Wars and The Avengers.  “S.H.I.E.L.D,” a live-action related Avengers show, is coming from the mind of Joss Whedon. A pilot has been filmed and ABC President Paul Lee seems confident that a full series order will be made soon. Lee tells the media and fans that the show is, “not exactly about “The Avengers” but is attached to it.”

Putting superheroes on television is a risky bet. Few superheroes have had long running programs on television. Whedon has had success with several television shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly) and also with movies (“The Avengers”, “Toy Story”). Along with the television show, Whedon is working on related scripts centered around Marvel characters.

The “S.H.I.E.L.D” show is really low risk/high reward for Disney and potentially its shareholders. The show is being aired on ABC, owned by Disney. The company is attempting to expand the Marvel universe, further cashing in on the large acquisition. The television show also allows Disney to introduce less familiar Marvel characters to a national television audience. Disney will then have the opportunity to expand several characters into their own movies or include them in upcoming Avengers movies. When Disney bought Marvel, it knew it was getting franchises centered around “Iron Man,” “Thor,” and “Captain America.” However, the large media giant would miss out on huge Marvel characters like “Spider-Man,” “Punisher,” and “X-Men,” as they had already been licensed out to other studios.

Lee also busted open news to the media and fans on plans for another huge blockbuster television show. “We’d love to do something with Lucasfilm, we’re not sure what yet,” Lee told reporters. Now that the acquisition of Lucasfilm has closed, reports are out that a live-action Star Wars television show is in the works. A television show has been in the works for several years, but was rumored to have had a production cost of $5 million per episode. Lucasfilm wanted to keep ownership of the show and its DVD releases, something most studios are reluctant to do. However, with the ownership of the Star Wars characters now in Disney’s hands, they have several television channels and the money to make this happen.

A television show will put the Star Wars characters back in the spotlight, not that they have ever gone away. It will help showcase the brand to a new generation of fans that will be the important box office dollar signs for Disney in 2015. Disney has the potential to introduce new characters and storylines, similar to “S.H.I.E.L.D.” that could boost box office revenue. Disney will also consider having its Star Wars show follow storylines in several video games it is developing. This is a huge opportunity for television ratings and video game sales and downloads.

In the current fall television season, ABC ranks fourth among the four broadcast channels. With 14 weeks under their belt, ABC had a 2.3 rating in the key 18-49 age demographic. Ranking ahead of ABC were NBC-3.1, CBS-2.7, and Fox-2.4. ABC’s ranking was down 8% from the prior year. New shows could give ABC and its advertising numbers a huge boost, helping the already strong television segment of Disney.

One of ABC’s hit shows has been “Once Upon a Time,” which airs on Sunday. The show centers around Fairy Tales and was a risky bet for Disney as well. The show uses Disney and fairy tale characters like Peter Pan, Snow White, Rumplestiltskin, and Pinocchio. The show has been extremely successful for Disney and is currently the highest rated non-sports show on Sundays in the key 18-49 demographic. The show was ABC’s biggest premiere in five years. Entertainment analysts are already salivating at a potential Sunday lineup consisting of “Once Upon a Time,” “Star Wars,” and “S.H.I.E.L.D.” This lineup would be huge for advertisers and could compete with huge sports programs and the Sunday Animation Domination lineup on Fox.

In fiscal 2012, media was the biggest revenue and profit source for Disney. Revenue in the segment grew 4% to $19.4 billion. Profits in media grew 8% to $6.6 billion. Studio, which will be well represented in 2015 by the new Star Wars and Avengers movies, saw an 8% decline in revenue to $5.8 billion. Profits in the studio segment increased 17%, but made up only $700 million. If these two shows are successful, it will increase profit margins and revenue goals for the media segment. The company can raise advertisement rates during these particular shows and also cross promote new shows, when they have a large audience of viewers. In 2015, when two movies related to the shows come out, the revenue and profits should increase dramatically in the studio segment.

With studio profits representing less than 10% of fiscal 2012 numbers, investors should see this huge opportunity early. These two big budget movies will be highly anticipated, but will see an even bigger box office take from increased fan bases created by the television shows. The year 2015 will be a huge year for Disney, with the releases of The Avengers 2 and Star Wars VII. However, both large acquisitions will continue to reward shareholders year after year. The creation of these shows should put shares back in focus. Shares trade at around $50 and are close to fifty two week highs ($53.40). However, shares are up only 3% since the announcement of the Lucasfilm acquisition and are still undervalued. The $4 billion deal will be huge for Disney, just like Marvel has and will continue to be. Investors should buy shares of Disney at these levels and see the stock post nice gains into 2015.


Chris Katje does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this entry. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

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