The Walt Disney Company represents a truly immense organization composed of five strategic business units which, with the consideration of the consolidated revenue, represented roughly $42.3 billion as of their fiscal year end on Sept 29, 2012. (Fiscal Year 2011 Annual Financial Report and Shareholder Letter, 2011). The five SBUs are Disney Consumer products, Studio Entertainment, Parks and Resorts, Media Networks Broadcasting, and Interactive Media. (Fiscal Year 2011 Annual Financial Report and Shareholder Letter, 2011). These five SBUs can be further subdivided into 28 categories and are composed of a variety of brands. The only two common areas that can be found in the Walt Disney Company’s holdings are entertainment and information. Every business activity the organization is engaged in is related in some manner to providing its consumer base entertainment and or information.
Despite the two commonalities of their activities, there exists a wide array of variety in their operations. One of the growth strategies that has aided the corporation reach its current level of success is the fact that the organization has expanded both vertically and horizontally into new markets by targeted segmentation. In most cases, it reaches these market segments by acquiring a previously established brand such as ABC, ESPN, and recently Marvel Comics and Lucasfilms. (Walt Disney Company subsidiaries). Furthermore, it is only through the diversification in branding that Disney has grown simply because the children’s brand is comparatively limited in terms of the target demographic. It is also the same diversity that minimizes the systemic risk involved with operating in too narrow of a portfolio.
The individual external threats to Walt Disney are as diversified as the company itself. However, one of the greatest potential risks to the overall aspirations of the company is rooted in the protection of its brand(s) image and credibility. The history of the Walt Disney Company and its positive reputation are deeply engrained within the cultural heritage of people worldwide. This is also evident in the fact that their balance sheets show excessive amounts of intangible assets and goodwill. According to their balance sheet in 2011, Disney accounted for almost $80 million in intangible assets. (Fiscal Year 2011 Annual Financial Report and Shareholder Letter, 2011). They are more subject to risks than more traditional assets. Therefore, a balance must be achieved that embraces diversity in branding but also maintains a healthy risk adversity to any potential threats to brand’s integrity.
The major threats that Disney faces include protecting their intellectual properties, especially in the Studio Entertainment division, as well as threats generated by an economic downturn. Most of Disney’s products and services are priced at a premium and are at risk in a period of recession. There are several competitors in the theme park industry, but when it comes to movies and television, the number of rivals are too numerous to mention.
Disney’s internal strengths are composed mainly of the company’s innovative leveraging of its financial expertise and tremendous brand recognition to move vertically and horizontally into new markets. Innovation has been at the core of Disney’s organizational culture virtually from day one. The fact that their portfolio is so diversified also offers the company substantial advantages in terms of risk mitigation.
· Brand recognition
· Strong customer loyalty
· High quality products and services
· High operating costs
· Brand is mainly associated with children
· Growth barriers in theme parks
· Further foreign expansion
· Unlimited character development
· Multicultural marketing (Cinco de Mayo, Lunar New Year, etc.)
· Other theme parks
· Other online retailers
· Recent acquisitions of Marvel and Lucasfilms could post low or unprofitable sales
The recommended strategies for the Walt Disney Company are composed of initiatives on two separate fronts. First, SBUs must continue to strengthen operations by identifying new opportunities in the current target markets. This lies solely in the skill set of management. One example of such is the new attractions being planned for the theme parks.
However, the most noticeable example of innovative ideas was Disney’s real estate venture that takes their “magic” to a whole new level. In this case, Disney successfully leveraged its incredible brand recognition in the real estate market by creating communities with their image marketing theme coupled with their branding and consequentially adding value to the consumer. (Watson, 2010).
This type of innovative leveraging of the Disney brand represents the second strategy recommendation. Their endeavors into new markets, both in and out of the SBU structure, must maintain Disney’s values and be fully compatible with either their entertainment niche or also possibly along the informational divisions. Another example that falls within the traditional SBU structure with regards to growth through acquisition that has proven successful is Disney’s acquirement of Pixar Entertainment in 2006. (LaMonica, 2006). This move was completely in line with Disney’s strong roots in animation and not only acted to benefit that specific SBU, but also strengthened the brand as a whole.
In conclusion, to continue its growth ambitions, Disney must continue its innovative developments from within the traditional SBU structure. Moreover, it must scan for opportunities, such as the real estate venture, which lies outside the traditional hierarchy. To achieve this, Disney must not only foster the culture of innovation that builds from a bottom up approach through the SBU hierarchy. In fact, it must also be innovative itself in identifying new opportunities. This requires a corporate project coordination team that will engage in project management until the point when the project has been integrated into the SBUs, or when it becomes a standalone SBU in the future. It is difficult to forecast how much revenue this will generate, but it can be compared to the current growth in net income.
Between 2009 and 2011, Disney has almost doubled their net income. Below is a chart showing how much revenue each SBU is responsible for.
Based on these figures, I believe that every SBU could be classified as a Cash Cow with the exception of Interactive Media. While it’s showing to be the lease productive as far as revenue wise, it has shown the most gain over the past year, with a rise of 29%. The other SBUs each have respectable gains in their own right, except Studio Entertainment, only due to the fact they didn’t release that many movies this past year. (Fiscal Year 2011 Annual Financial Report and Shareholder Letter, 2011).
The objectives proposed consist of identifying opportunities for acquisition or entrance into a new market and creating a project team to capture this opportunity. This proposal recommends that the project portfolio be evaluated quarterly. Each separate SBU should have some freedom to decipher the projects scope, schedule and budget while a corporate team leads initiatives that fall outside the realm of the traditional SBU structure. The centralized project coordination office will then have the ability to compare the proposed net present value among all projects across the traditional divisional lines to make sure that the projects with the greatest benefits secure funding and all projects follow a set of best practices. Centralization of this unit also opens the doors to creating a knowledge management base that can also be share across divisional lines. The key advantages of this method are:
· Retain corporate control over acquisitions and projects
· Allow the SBUs freedom for creativity while maintaining functional efficiencies
· Maintain aggressive profit growth by funding projects with the greatest net present value.
It is recommended that the project coordination team be developed to maintain project management best practices without being overly intrusive to the project’s objectives. Also, acquisitions must be monitored as well since these will represent a bulk of the company’s growth strategy. Subsequently, change management practices must be adhered to during such integrations. Disney must also be cognizant of the corporate culture that is subject to any acquisition to ensure that integration does not come with insurmountable resistance.
Ultimately, the proposed focus on innovation and acquisition must be subject to evaluation, and the scorecard for all businesses is written in economic terms. Within the five primary SBUs, such evaluations are comparatively simple to conduct due to the large amount of historical performance data available. New projects and acquisitions require more craft in terms of evaluations but these can be compared with the net benefit analysis produced before the project’s inception to provide a measure of success.
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