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If it's been a great year for stocks, it's been an even better one for shareholders of
Walt Disney (
DIS). The $117 billion entertainment giant is up more than 31% since the calendar flipped over to January, almost doubling the
S&P 500's climb year-to-date. Disney's unmatched collection of intellectual property, and its ability to turn that portfolio into cash throughout its business, gives the firm some big advantages in 2013 and beyond.
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When people think Disney, they think Mickey Mouse. And while the anthropomorphic mouse is certainly a cornerstone of Disney's business, its TV network properties are the real cash cow. Disney earned around half of its profits through television networks such as ABC, A&E and the Disney Channel. ESPN, though, is the star of the show. ESPN is the most valuable network in the world, capturing a bigger part of your cable bill than any other network out there -- and it's all thanks to football. Despite shelling out more than $1.8 billion each year to the NFL for Monday Night Football broadcast rights, the network's model has proven immensely profitable.
Meanwhile, Disney's theme parks are starting to enjoy the other side of the cyclical downdraft that hindered them during the Great Recession. Because Disney is highly integrated, it's able to take popular characters from a film and move them into TV, theme parks and merchandise, multiplying the value of its efforts and trimming costs. Finally, the decision to purchase of Pixar in 2006 was transformational for DIS, and should help to bring in consistent blockbusters in a way that Disney's animation studios haven't by themselves.