Who owns ESPN? Who owns ABC? Does Disney own Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar? The answer is yes, and more — a lot more. We’ve made a map of the companies owned by Disney along with the wide swath of departments and Walt Disney Company subsidiaries. Massive corporations may be too big to grasp sometimes, but this huge list of assets of the Walt Disney Corporation can help media consumers untangle the great network of the mouse.
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What companies does Disney own?
Our map of companies owned by Disney is huge! It’s easy to get lost in the weeds. So here’s a much simpler list of companies Disney owns that aren’t as obvious (or don’t sport “Disney” in the name):
- ESPN (80% stake)
- Touchstone Pictures
- A&E (50% equity holding with Hearst Corporation)
- The History Channel (50% equity holding with Hearst Corporation)
- Lifetime (50% equity holding with Hearst Corporation)
- Hollywood Records
- Vice Media (10% stake)
- Core Publishing
Besides these, there are also the more obvious companies: Disney television channels, Disney stores, Disney radio stations, and Disney parks (including Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, Disneyland Paris, Disney Cruise Line, and a host of other vacation-related properties). Their parks and properties tend to be the corporation’s biggest cash cows.
So just how many companies does Disney own? There are hundreds of individual companies under the umbrella of the Walt Disney Company, but what’s interesting and important is that the corporation has a hand in many other companies besides ones in which they have sole ownership.
What does Disney own as far as recognizable brands and film franchises?
Disney-owned companies have characters and brands that are spread throughout mass media. Here’s just a sampling of a few of them:
- Star Wars
- The Muppets
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe (but not the X-Men — yet!)
- Disney Princesses/Princes (such as characters from Cinderella, Mulan, Frozen, Aladdin, and The Lion King)
- The Chronicles of Narnia Franchise
- The Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise
- Pixar Films (such as Toy Story, The Incredibles, and Cars)
- The Winnie the Pooh Franchise
- The Indiana Jones Franchise
- Grey’s Anatomy (and other popular ABC shows)
What companies does Disney own that we’ve never heard of?
Fold back the plastic layer of pleasantly drawn faces and great films, and you’ll find deeper layers, deeper cogs that hint at how the entire company ticks. Disney subsidiaries tend to fold oddly into each other, so here’s some that could fly under the radar:
- Maker Studios: It’s a production company for popular YouTube channels that has since been folded into other areas of the company after a troubled few years.
- Steamboat Ventures: It’s a venture capital company that invests in some of the Web’s top startups. For instance, the popular GoPro, Photobucket, and a host of Chinese social media and gaming companies have relationships with Disney through Steamboat Ventures.
- They also own dozens of miscellaneous property companies from Aulani to Port Canaveral, Florida. Many of these are leftover companies from when Walt had to hide his investments through other company names to buy land for Walt Disney World.
- International media networks like ATV, RTL 2, RDS, Tele 5, and Kividoo aren’t heard about here but are a big deal abroad.
- Earth Star Inc. is the company for private jets to cart Disney executives around! There’s also a management company called the Synergy Group.
What media companies does Disney not own?
Does Disney own Universal Studios? No, thankfully not. Universal Studios is, in fact, a longtime enemy and competitor of the mouse. Universal Pictures predated Disney and was founded way back in 1912. In fact, the Universal rights battle with Walt Disney, the man himself, over Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is part of what spawned the creation of Mickey Mouse in the first place.
Is Dreamworks owned by Disney? No. Both Universal Studios and Dreamworks are owned by the mega media conglomerate NBCUniversal, which in turn is owned by Comcast. They own everything from NBC to Telemundo to Syfy.
One of the other companies that own everything is Time Warner Inc., which owns HBO, Warner Bros., the CW, DC Comics, and AOL among other properties. It’s important to remember that Disney isn’t the only huge media conglomerate around!
Also, the popular anime house Studio Ghibli is only distributed by Disney; it’s not owned by it.
What about the Disney-Fox merger?
The Disney-Fox deal, expected to close in the summer of 2019, complicates things a great deal. While a lot of geeks are excited about the creative freedom that comes with the merger regarding Marvel copyrights, and film fans are nerding out about potential reboots of popular franchises like Alien, the Fox merger is also a little bit scary. When Disney buys Fox, there’s a great risk of potential media monopolies. Popular Disney assets like ESPN would be owned by the same company that owns its major competitor, Fox Sports. ABC and Fox News would also compete and be owned by the same company. Some aspects of Fox will be split off into their own company, now nicknamed “Diet Fox.” Even so, this would really increase the things Disney owns in our pop culture: shows like The Simpsons, American Horror Story, American Idol, and Family Guy, films like Alien, Home Alone, Avatar, Deadpool, and Independence Day, and massively important media brands like National Geographic and Hulu.
The answer to the question, “What companies are owned by Disney?” is going to change drastically in the next few years as more media corporations gobble each other up. Will we end up with three huge media companies, or two, or one? Will we have one mega-conglomerate of everything creative being controlled by Disney? Will the owners still remember that it all began with a mouse?