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Brought to fans, investors, entrepreneurs, executives, teachers, professors, and students by columnist, economist, novelist, reviewer, podcaster, business reporter and speaker Ray Keating

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Remain Calm: Spidey-Feige-Sony-Disney Drama Not Likely Over

by Ray Keating
News/Analysis
DisneyBizJournal.com
August 21, 2019

Call me a crazy optimist, but I  don’t think Tom Holland’s Spider-Man will be exiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe, despite news that Spidey’s out and the Internet is freakin’ out. 


This entire Sony-Disney battle looks like a tough negotiation that somebody decided to take public to gain an advantage. Considering assorted reports, the story goes something along the following lines. Sony achieved great success with the two Holland movies – Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home – that came after a deal between the two companies allowed Marvel’s Kevin Feige (the MCU guru) to produce both movies. (That Marvel-Sony deal came after Sony was disappointed with the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man films.) As for Marvel, Spider-Man entered and is slated for an important role in the MCU. Here was a win-win deal in Hollywood.

But with two more Spider-Man movies supposedly on the way via Sony and more MCU films with Spidey coming, a new deal between the companies was sought. Given that the current deal gives Disney a rather modest 5 percent of the first-dollar gross on Spider-Man movies, along with all merchandise sales (certainly not insignificant), it’s pretty clear that Disney/Marvel was pushing for the new deal. And Disney reportedly wanted a 50-50 split on financing, with Feige staying on in his consulting-producer role, according to Variety.

But as negotiations hit the rocks, Disney seems to have played the “Feige” card, with the company seemingly worried that Feige might be getting spread too thin with all of the movie and streaming projects he’s involved with for Disney.

Sony Pictures then went public with a response. Variety reported:

     In a rare public rebuke to Disney, Sony announced Tuesday night that it was “disappointed” over the decision, highlighting Disney’s refusal to allow Marvel President Kevin Feige to continue as a producer on the projects. It also praised Feige, who teamed with Amy Pascal on “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” which became Sony’s most successful release earlier this week in terms of global box office.
     “Much of today’s news about Spider-Man has mischaracterized recent discussions about Kevin Feige’s involvement in the franchise,” Sony said in a statement. “We are disappointed, but respect Disney’s decision not to have him continue as a lead producer of our next live action Spider-Man film.”
     “We hope this might change in the future, but understand that the many new responsibilities that Disney has given him – including all their newly added Marvel properties – do not allow time for him to work on IP they do not own,” the statement continued. “Kevin is terrific and we are grateful for his help and guidance and appreciate the path he has helped put us on, which we will continue.”

I’m sure Disney will have something to say in response.

Looking at a negotiation like this, the typical question is: Who needs whom more? 

Yes, Feige played a key role in getting Sony’s live-action Spider-Man on track (or back on track as I have great appreciation for the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films). For good measure, Spidey being in the MCU clearly is a big plus for Sony. Of course, there’s no reason why Sony can’t take what Feige has done and run with it, telling some mighty Spidey tales, as basically said in the company’s statement. But that adds risk and uncertainty for a company that has an uneven track record with superhero, including Spider-Man, movies.

Meanwhile, the MCU certainly would survive – and yes, thrive – without Spider-Man. But the loss of that character would still be substantial and disruptive. Spider-Man exiting the MCU adds risk and uncertainty for Disney/Marvel, who already has seen the exit of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers.

Nobody likes added risk and uncertainty in Hollywood, an industry drenching in risk and uncertainty.

And by the way, I seriously doubt that Feige’s work on Spider-Man is somehow going to lead to him feeling overworked and his creative output will suffer as a result.

In the end, it’s unclear who needs whom more. I suppose given the MCU track record of success, a case can be made that Sony needs Marvel/Feige more. But in reality, this, again, is a clear case where each company benefits enormously from a partnership. And for that reason, while it might be a rough road along the way, I expect Sony and Disney to arrive at an agreement that results in Spidey remaining in the MCU. So, try to stay calm while these two entertainment companies fight it out over superheroes.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

If you enjoyed this article, and since I am the author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels and short stories, can I ask you to take at least one (preferably more) of the following steps?

1) The new Pastor Stephen Grant novel – DEEP ROUGH – has arrived! You can order the Kindle edition, the paperback, or the signed book.

2) Please join the Pastor Stephen Grant novels and short stories email list, and get the upcoming short story, THE TRAITOR, for free! Sign up here.

3) Buy one of the other Pastor Stephen Grant novels or short stories at Amazon.comor signed books at www.raykeatingonline.com

4) Become a member of the Pastor Stephen Grant Fellowship, and get all kinds of FREE stuff, including each new book in the Pastor Stephen Grant series. Check out the levels and benefits here.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Disney+ International Rollout and Platforms Announced

by Ray Keating
News
DisneyBizJournal.com
August 19, 2019

The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer & International group announced today the schedule for the rollout of Disney+ and the platforms that will carry the Disney+ app.


Along with the U.S. kickoff on November 12, Disney+ will launch in Canada and the Netherlands on the same day. A week later, Disney+ will be available Australia and New Zealand. Disney expects to have Disney+ in most major markets within two years.

Agreements are in place to have the Disney+ app on the following platforms or devices: Apple (including Apple TV), Google (Android and Chromecast), Microsoft (Xbox One), Sony (including PlayStation 4), and Roku.

You can sign up for email updates regarding Disney+ at DisneyPlus.com. In addition, Disney+ goes live on Facebook (@DisneyPlus), Instagram and Twitter (@disneyplus) today.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

If you enjoyed this article, and since I am the author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels and short stories, can I ask you to take at least one (preferably more) of the following steps?

1) The new Pastor Stephen Grant novel – DEEP ROUGH – has arrived! You can order the Kindle edition, the paperback, or the signed book.

2) Please join the Pastor Stephen Grant novels and short stories email list, and get the upcoming short story, THE TRAITOR, for free! Sign up here.

3) Buy one of the other Pastor Stephen Grant novels or short stories at Amazon.comor signed books at www.raykeatingonline.com

4) Become a member of the Pastor Stephen Grant Fellowship, and get all kinds of FREE stuff, including each new book in the Pastor Stephen Grant series. Check out the levels and benefits here.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Florida: More Than the Mouse

by Ray Keating
Analysis
DisneyBizJournal.com
August 15, 2019

While I certainly enjoy Walt Disney World, is Florida only about Mickey Mouse? Far from it. I call the state “Entrepreneurial Florida.”

Check out the recent piece I wrote for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council titled “Entrepreneurial Florida is Much More Than Mickey Mouse and Retirement.” (Click on the photo below as well to go to the article.)



Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

If you enjoyed this article, and since I am the author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels and short stories, can I ask you to take at least one (preferably more) of the following steps?

1) The new Pastor Stephen Grant novel – DEEP ROUGH – has arrived! You can order the Kindle edition, the paperback, or the signed book.

2) Please join the Pastor Stephen Grant novels and short stories email list, and get the upcoming short story, THE TRAITOR, for free! Sign up here.

3) Buy one of the other Pastor Stephen Grant novels or short stories at Amazon.comor signed books at www.raykeatingonline.com

4) Become a member of the Pastor Stephen Grant Fellowship, and get all kinds of FREE stuff, including each new book in the Pastor Stephen Grant series. Check out the levels and benefits here.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

“Top Disney” on Every Disney Fan’s Bookshelf

by Ray Keating
Book Review
DisneyBizJournal.com
August 14, 2019

Certain books should be on the bookshelf of every Disney fan, and Top Disney: 100 Top Ten Lists of the Best of Disney, From the Man to the Mouse and Beyond (Lyons Press, 2019) rates as one of those books.


While flipping through pages and reading each list, it becomes clear that author Christopher Lucas possesses both deep knowledge and deep love for all things Disney. And what’s nice is that no matter the reader’s level of Disney expertise – from the casual fan to the master – there’s a great deal to appreciate in Top Disney.

I enjoyed what Lucas had to say in assorted lists about the people who have worked at and contributed to the Walt Disney Company over the years, such as Walt himself; his brother, Roy, and other family members; additional corporate icons and executives; key artists, animators and imagineers; and actors who worked with and/or got their starts with Disney.

Of course, there are plenty of lists that will generate disagreement and debate – hopefully, good natured – among Disney aficionados regarding movies, characters, songs, television shows, and the theme parks.

Lucas also serves up some quirky lists that reveal fun facts about Disney that I didn’t previous know, such as “Most Unusual Disney Films” and “Forgotten Disney Characters.”

So, put Top Disney on your Disney bookshelf. But don’t leave it there. Take it down often, crack it open, and then smile, debate, discuss, and come up with your own lists. Just have fun with Top Disney – after all, that’s why it was written.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

If you enjoyed this article, and since I am the author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels and short stories, can I ask you to take at least one (preferably more) of the following steps?

1) The new Pastor Stephen Grant novel – DEEP ROUGH – has arrived! You can order the Kindle edition, the paperback, or the signed book.


2) Please join the Pastor Stephen Grant novels and short stories email list, and get the upcoming short story, THE TRAITOR, for free! Sign up here.


3) Buy one of the other Pastor Stephen Grant novels or short stories at Amazon.comor signed books at www.raykeatingonline.com

4) Become a member of the Pastor Stephen Grant Fellowship, and get all kinds of FREE stuff, including each new book in the Pastor Stephen Grant series. Check out the levels and benefits here.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Disney Theme Park Attendance and the Economy

by Ray Keating
Analysis
DisneyBizJournal.com
August 12, 2019

Since the Walt Disney Company reported its latest quarterly earnings last week, there’s been a great deal of speculation as to the reason behind a drop in attendance – widely reported to be a 3 percent decline – at Disney’s domestic theme parks. Most of the possibilities being tossed around likely played a part. But another possible factor – which has not garnered any attention but at least warrants some degree of consideration – is the economy. Specifically, has the recent slowdown in economic growth played a part?


In its third quarter earnings report, Disney explained:

The decrease in operating income at our domestic parks and resorts was due to higher costs and lower volume, partially offset by increased average per capita guest spending. Higher costs were driven by labor and other cost inflation and expenses associated with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which opened at Disneyland Resort on May 31. The decrease in volume was due to lower attendance, partially offset by higher occupied room nights. Guest spending growth was primarily due to higher average ticket prices and increased food, beverage and merchandise spending.

The basic message here is that there was a decline in park attendance in the third quarter, but spending on average was up among those in attendance. That’s not necessarily a bad thing from Disney’s perspective in terms of increasing revenues while providing an improved experience for the guests in attendance. However, that only goes so far. 

Among the explanations for the attendance drop being noted are Disney managing attendance given the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland; guests deferring visits until Galaxy’s Edge opens in Walt Disney World late this month; guests being scared off by the assumption of large crowds tied to Galaxy’s Edge; and guests deferring their visits until Galaxy’s Edge Rise of the Resistance joins Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run in Walt Disney World on December 5, 2019 and in Disneyland in January 17, 2020. Plus, there’s been a good number of articles and podcasts talking about Disney pushing the prices for theme park admissions too high.


Again, any and all of these factors could be at work. But what about the economy? Obviously, an economic slowdown or recession does not bode well for theme park attendance or Disney’s overall business.

It must be noted that while the current economic recovery/expansion has been lengthy (the recession officially ended in mid-2009), the average rate of growth has substantially under-performed the historical norm. For example, the economy normally grows at 3.3 percent annually in real terms (4.3 percent during recovery/expansion periods), but it has expanded at only 2.3 percent during this recovery/expansion. More recently, from mid-2015 to mid-2017, growth slowed (averaging only 1.8 percent), and it subsequently picked up over the next five quarters (average growth of 3.1 percent) from mid-2017 through the third quarter 2018. 

But growth slowed in two of the last three quarters. Growth in the fourth quarter 2018 was only 1.1 percent, followed by a solid 3.1 percent in first quarter 2019, and then slowing to 2.1 percent in the second quarter 2019.

The first question is: Are we trending lower, or were two of the last three quarters mere breathers in terms of economic growth? Given that anti-growth, protectionist trade policies have taken a chunk out of U.S. economic growth (see my analysis here) recently, and there’s little reason to expect President Trump to reverse course and point trade policy in a more pro-growth direction, this stands out as the biggest threat to economic growth moving forward. For good measure, political uncertainty will increasingly come into play as the 2020 election gets closer.

The second question is: Given that the labor market remains relatively strong, how much have consumers taken notice of any slowdown and potential problems developing? Consumers tend to be followers, that is, they take their cues from what business is doing. That is, if business is investing, expanding and hiring, then consumers tend to be happy and spending. In the second quarter of 2019, the two biggest drags on the economy were declines in private investment and in trade. If those developments persist, recession becomes increasingly likely. 

But there are a lot of “ifs” in play here – more than typical – and the economy could go in either direction – up or down.

So, with one quarter showing a drop in Disney theme park attendance, we’re left to speculate and watch for further developments. In terms of what we’re watching, though, the state of the economy shouldn’t be ignored.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

If you enjoyed this article, and since I am the author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels and short stories, can I ask you to take at least one (preferably more) of the following steps?

1) The new Pastor Stephen Grant novel – DEEP ROUGH – has arrived! You can order the Kindle edition, the paperback, or the signed book.


2) Please join the Pastor Stephen Grant novels and short stories email list, and get the upcoming short story, THE TRAITOR, for free! Sign up here.


3) Buy one of the other Pastor Stephen Grant novels or short stories at Amazon.comor signed books at www.raykeatingonline.com

4) Become a member of the Pastor Stephen Grant Fellowship, and get all kinds of FREE stuff, including each new book in the Pastor Stephen Grant series. Check out the levels and benefits here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Disney Expanding, Not Limiting, Epic Competition and Choices

by Ray Keating
Analysis/Commentary
DisneyBizJournal.com
August 7, 2019

After the recent Fox merger, the Walt Disney Company has been called (for example, in an IGN.com article) “the most powerful movie studio that has ever existed.” Wow. 

That phrase, of course, strikes fear into the hearts of many, including people who assume that consumers and creators will suffer under a “monopoly” or some kind of tremendous economic power, with competition and choice being lost. Nothing could be further from the truth.


First, a little history. Big does not guarantee success in the competitive marketplace. The history of business are strewn with companies that once dominated or were major players in their respective industries, and went on to be wiped out. Think Sears, Pan Am, Kodak, Borders, Blockbuster, Burger Chef – the list goes on and on. 

Second, a little economics. The term “monopoly” means a single seller of a product for which there are few good substitutes, and the industry has high barriers to entry. The Walt Disney Company stands as a major player – but far from the only player – in the broad entertainment industry. Consumers have seemingly countless and multiplying entertainment products and services on which they can spend their hard earned dollars. High barriers to entry, especially when considering the dramatic advancements in technology in terms of producing and distributing content, certainly don’t exist. 

For good measure, monopolies in the free market are more about the over-active imaginations of politicians, the media and assorted economists, rather than economic reality. Monopolies usually come about due to government (for example, public schools) or government protection (for example, back in the day, Ma Bell), not market competition. Sure, significant market share can be gained in the market. But that is accomplished by serving customers well, and that market share can and often does disappear due to competition and innovation. 

Talk of Disney being a monopoly or wielding some kind of overwhelming economic power amounts to economic fiction. In fact, Disney’s products, services and investments serve to expand rather than limit competition and choice.

Consider Disney’s announcement on August 6ththat it’s going to bundle three streaming services – Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu – into one affordable package of $12.99 per month. The bundle will be available on November 12 with Disney+ coming online that day.

In the company’s August 6thearnings call, CEO Bob Iger spoke about the long-term value of the Fox acquisition; the volume and variety of content scheduled for Disney+; flexibility among platforms; the need to maintain a flow of quality for its more traditional television networks like ABC, FX and Freeform; and the need “to be more resilient than any of our competitors.”

Low prices, and emphasis on investment in platforms and content are not signs of monopoly, but instead, they signal a company fighting for profits and market share in a competitive arena. Disney is taking on Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and others in the online video market.

In addition, a recent announcement points to the competitive nature of another major part of the overall entertainment industry where Disney is a leading player, i.e., theme parks. But it wasn’t an announcement from Disney, but rather from a major competitor – Comcast.

On August 1, Comcast’s Universal Orlando Resorts announced that it would be opening a new park – its fourth – called “Universal’s Epic Universe.” The details are pretty vague at this point, except that this promises to be a major investment by a major competitor to Walt Disney World in Orlando. 

In the Comcast statement, it was noted, “Universal’s Epic Universe will take guests on a journey where beloved stories expand into vibrant lands – and where that journey is as much a part of their adventure as the ultimate destination.” Brian L. Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast, said, “Our new park represents the single-largest investment Comcast NBCUniversal has made in its theme park business and in Florida overall.”

According to Universal Orlando:

“Universal’s Epic Universe will offer an entirely new level of experiences that will forever redefine theme park entertainment. Guests will venture beyond their wildest imagination, traveling into beloved stories and through vibrant lands on adventures where the journey is as astounding as the destination. The new location will feature a theme park, an entertainment center, hotels, shops, restaurants and more. Ultimately, this expansion will create more space and freedom to let loose and create lasting memories with the people you love.”

Universal’s Epic Universe sends a clear signal that Disney both faces and spurs competition from rivals. It certainly is not the case of other businesses throwing up their arms in a surrender to a monopoly. 

Of course, a new theme park coming from Universal, along with Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge, or the Disney streaming package taking on Netflix and Amazon, serve as examples of competition that can be easily seen. But there’s much more going on among entrepreneurs, innovators and inventors that is hidden from the public, if you will, because it’s just getting started or in early development stages. These entrepreneurs are working to come up with the next big leap forward, whether it be related to content, technology or simply improved service. 

In the end, a company like Disney spurs competition, and must itself invest and innovate in the face of current and future competitors. The real economic power lies with consumers, and entrepreneurs and businesses must work and compete to provide new and/or improved products and services in order to succeed – and remain successful.

For consumers, such competition is, to borrow a word, epic.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

If you enjoyed this article, and since I am the author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels and short stories, can I ask you to take at least one (preferably more) of the following steps?

1) The new Pastor Stephen Grant novel – DEEP ROUGH – has arrived! You can order the Kindle edition, the paperback, or the signed book.

2) Please join the Pastor Stephen Grant novels and short stories email list, and get the upcoming short story, THE TRAITOR, for free! Sign up here.

3) Buy one of the other Pastor Stephen Grant novels or short stories at Amazon.comor signed books at www.raykeatingonline.com

4) Become a member of the Pastor Stephen Grant Fellowship, and get all kinds of FREE stuff, including each new book in the Pastor Stephen Grant series. Check out the levels and benefits here.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Reagan Foundation Salutes Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse

by Ray Keating
News/Analysis
DisneyBizJournal.com
August 1, 2019

Early this week, the Ronald Reagan Foundation saluted Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in its latest Monday Minute.


President Reagan is featured giving tribute to Walt Disney and his accomplishments, and Reagan’s roll in hosting the television special covering the opening of Disneyland is noted, along with a reuniting of the television hosts, including Reagan, that occurred 35 years later.

Good stuff from Walt and the Gipper!

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

If you enjoyed this article, and since I am the author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels and short stories, can I ask you to take at least one (preferably more) of the following steps?

1) The new Pastor Stephen Grant novel – DEEP ROUGH – has arrived! You can order the Kindle edition, the paperback, or the signed book.

2) Please join the Pastor Stephen Grant novels and short stories email list, and get the upcoming short story, THE TRAITOR, for free! Sign up here.

3) Buy one of the other Pastor Stephen Grant novels or short stories at Amazon.comor signed books at www.raykeatingonline.com

4) Become a member of the Pastor Stephen Grant Fellowship, and get all kinds of FREE stuff, including each new book in the Pastor Stephen Grant series. Check out the levels and benefits here.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

ROOT OF ALL EVIL? - Authored by DisneyBizJournal's Ray Keating - is the Book of the Month

ROOT OF ALL EVIL? is the Pastor Stephen Grant Book of the Month for August. 
The Kindle price has been CUT from $6.99 to $2.99. And there's a big sale on signed books and sets at https://raykeatingonline.com/t/book-of-the-month.


Do God, politics and money mix? In ROOT OF ALL EVIL? A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL by Ray Keating, the combination can turn out quite deadly. Keating introduced readers to Stephen Grant, a former CIA operative and current parish pastor, in the fun and highly praised WARRIOR MONK: A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL. Now, Grant is back in ROOT OF ALL EVIL? It’s a breathtaking thriller involving drug traffickers, politicians, the CIA and FBI, a shadowy foreign regime, the Church, and money. Charity, envy and greed are on display. Throughout, action runs high. Find a unique character and story, and lose yourself in ROOT OF ALL EVIL? A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL. 


Consider praise from assorted reviewers...

"ROOT OF ALL EVIL? is an extraordinarily good read.  Only Ray Keating could come up with a character like Pastor Stephen Grant... As trouble mounts in this page-turner, Grant will need both skills  - martial and theological - to punish evil and save the good.  Even though the Bible says that it's the love of money which is the root of all evil, Grant will find that even a casual appreciation of the U.S. dollar is enough to corrupt church men, government officials, and foreign agents.  Yet Grant can also save souls in whatever den of inequity he finds them."  - Paul L. Maier, author of A Skeleton in God's Closet, More Than A Skeleton, andThe Constantine Codex

"Well written, fast paced, it held my attention well while merging drama, adventure, theology, and economics."  - Mary Moerbe, author of Blessed: God's Gift of Loveand Family Vocation

"Ray Keating's second Pastor Stephen Grant novel, ROOT OF ALL EVIL?, is a fantastic follow up to Warrior Monk. It's a well crafted political thriller full of intrigue and theological truth. Keating's world has proven profitable for contrasting good theology with bad."  - Tyrel Bramwell, author of The Gift and the Defender

"I loved every second of it... This is well done. The character development ... is very nice. The story flows. It's multi-themed... I'm a fan. I'm hooked."  - Rod Zwonitzer, host of KFUO's "BookTalk"

"... storylines converge in D.C. with Stephen Grant's CIA past. He is called back into service as an expert shot and has ample opportunity to provide pastoral care."  - Lutheran Book Review