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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Disney Double-Header: Mobile ESPN, Pixar

Further evidence that Disney really gets new technology, and has a desire to deliver its content in innovative new ways: the pending launch of Mobile ESPN, essentially a version of the sports channel scaled down for a cell phone. Key quote from Richard Sandomir's story in today's NY Times:

    "Our mission is to be everywhere fans watch, talk, debate and enjoy sports," said Salil Mehta, executive vice president of ESPN Enterprises. "We don't believe in one screen. We believe in all three."

By all three, he means television (ESPN's cable channels), computers (, and cell phones. What if every TV channel and movie studio had the same mission?

And Pixar's stock hit an all-time high yesterday, after the company announced it had earned $27.4 million in profits for the third quarter, compared to $22.4 million in the same quarter last year. CEO Steve Jobs said that Pixar has sold 125,000 of its short films through Apple's iTunes Music Store in just under one month.

He also noted that he hasn't yet seen Disney's "Chicken Little," even as the two companies negotiate over renewing Disney's deal to distribute Pixar's movies. Jobs is angling for a bigger ownership stake in each movie... and I think he's got the stronger hand. "Little" simply may not be a big enough hit to give Disney a credible case for going it alone, producing CG-animated films "to infinity and beyond," as Buzz Lightyear would put it.

Rick Aristotle Murarriz of the Motley Fool observes:

    ...Yes, Chicken Little taking in $40.1 million over the weekend is a great start, but it's nowhere near as dominating as the $70.1 million that Pixar's The Incredibles took in during the exact same weekend slot last year. Chicken Little is likely to take in between $100 million to $120 million in its domestic theatrical run. It may duplicate that overseas. That falls well short of Pixar's global average of $533 million grossed on each of its six full-length features. So, no, Disney on its own is still nowhere near Pixar's league. It's a noble effort, though.

For more background on Disney/Pixar, read this great piece by Edward Jay Epstein, "Why Pixar can't leave Disney," published in Slate.