Marvel deal gives Disney man power

A Vintage Marvel comic book is seen for sale at St. Mark's Comics in New York City, with a Disney logo superimposed.

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Kai Ryssdal: I have no idea what the actual box office take this weekend was for whichever movies are out. But $4 billion is a pretty good place to start. That's how much The Walt Disney Company said this morning that it'll pay for Marvel Entertainment.

The comic book giant gets a whopping premium over its stock price last Friday. Disney gets more than 5,000 characters in return, including Spider-Man, the X-Men and Iron Man. That is some serious man power. And as Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson reports, that is exactly the point.


JEREMY HOBSON: To you or me, Disney might mean Mickey Mouse, Peter Pan, or Aladdin.

But to today's kids, Disney is Hannah Montana and princesses.

PRINCESS: There is a world where hope and dreams can last for all time.

Great for girls, but they're only half the market. Disney wants a little of this...

X-MEN: Dispatch, we're gonna need reinforcements! Suspects are unarmed but highly dangerous!

That's from X-Men, one of the new brands Disney gets by buying Marvel.

JIM HILL: This is the wonderful world of getting into another set of chromosomes. You know, they got Princess and fairies and now, you know, Spider-Man.

That's Disney analyst Jim Hill. He says Marvel's characters will help Disney appeal to boys between the ages of 8 and 12. And that, he says, could be worth a lot more than the $4 billion Disney's paying.

HILL: You know, to be able to nail down that sort of demographic, to get that sort of loyalty and have them coming back to watch movies and buy merchandise or play online games, it's potentially huge for them.

And he says, don't overlook the thousands of Marvel characters none of us has heard of. Like Berzerker, Black Death and Flambe. After all, Hill says, Disney has a knack for reviving old characters.

Entertainment industry analyst Hal Vogel isn't buying it.

HAL VOGEL: You have to question whether these 40, 50, 60, 70-year-old comic book heroes are relevant, and can you refresh them for the new market? I'm not convinced of that.

Vogel says it's possible Marvel got the better deal. It couldn't get the cash it needed to grow, so why not cash out at a big premium?

VOGEL: Disney has the capital, the Marvel Entertainment guys don't.

Well, they do now.

In New York, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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