Disney Sells Merchandise, Deal With It

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Boy Scouts be damned, Disney ( DIS) is on a tear.

Shares of the world's largest entertainment company were rising again on Wednesday as Disney continues to enjoy the momentum of its deal with Dish Network ( DISH) as well as its Oscar for "Frozen." The Academy Award for Best Animation demonstrated to Disney naysayers that the Burbank, Calif.-based company can create animation films that win popular appeal as well as sell product.



WATCH: Dish Network Signs Deal with Disney to Stream Shows Online

Because first and foremost, Disney makes films to sell product.

"Disney is masterful at this," Joan Gillman, who oversees Time Warner Cable's roughly $1 billion media services division, said at the Digital Hollywood conference in New York. "Every Disney show has merchandise. Disney is an extremely powerful brand."

Disney has struggled at times to produce the home run movie. The misstep known as "Lone Ranger" forced CEO Bob Iger to take a $190 million write-off last year just 18 months after the sci-fi blunde "John Carter" cost the company $200 million. But "Avengers," "Rocket Ralph" and "Frozen" made money and they sold product.

They've done so well that some investors fear Disney is generating more cash than it knows how to properly spend. 

Todd Juenger, media industry analyst at BernsteinResearch, said the "biggest pushback" he gets about Disney is the notion that the company will put their profits toward projects or acquisitions that don't return value. "Some fear another surge in cap ex, arguing that will be a double-whammy" which lowers profits and prompts Iger to make questionable acquisitions," Juenger said in a March 5 investor report.

Unlike some, Juenger argued that Disney spent well when it acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm, and grew its theme parks. Disney shares, which trade at 23 times earnings, are cheap on a historic basis, he said. Disney's ability to generate cash at current levels translates into a $130 share price by the end of its fiscal 2016, the analyst said. 

Disney's Oscar win at Sunday's Academy Awards has overshadowed the company's announcement that it will cut funding to the Boy Scouts of America beginning in 2015 because of the youth organization's policy that forbids gay adult leaders. The Boy Scouts said it was "disappointed" by the decision. Disney doesn't actually provide funding to the Boy Scouts, but does funnel donations to some troops in exchange for volunteer hours completed by Disney employees.

The Boy Scout brush-up has yet to hurt Disney shares, which were rising 1.4% to $82.85 on Wednesday. Investors were more focused on Disney's deal with Dish that will require the satellite-TV operator to turn off its commercial skipping "AutoHop" function in exchange for streaming much of Disney's content, and its many television channels, through its Internet sites.

For Disney, the Dish deal is all about getting its content online along with its programming to sell merchandize.

-- Written by Leon Lazaroff



Leon Lazaroff is TheStreet's deputy managing editor.

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