With the launch of their new streaming service just over two weeks ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about Disney. Within the first day, Disney+ gained ten million subscribers- more than the populations of Ireland, Scotland and Wales combined.
Subscription costs about $6, so right off the bat your first month has garnered at least $60,000,000. Within a year that number becomes damn near unrepresentable by the sheer scope of it- and this service hasn’t even been released to the entire world. Imagine how much money could be produced if at least a billion people signed up for it.
But with all this success, Disney has been concerning a lot of people. As I write this, Disney currently owns the following; Fox Studios, Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, ESPN and ABC- not including the smaller companies and networks that fall under this corporate umbrella.
With this accumulation of assets, Disney has claimed the rights of thousands of hours of media and is responsible for thousands of jobs. The Mouse is on its way to becoming a media oligopoly. They won’t own everything, but they’ll own so much that they might as well own everything. Always eating, but never quite full.
As far as I can see, most of the concern in regards to Disney owning everything is almost always consumer orientated. People are either upset that Daredevil had to be cancelled or they’re irked by the rapid production of mediocre Star Wars products. In the long run, these concerns are both childish and meaningless in the face of sheer damage this company can cause to human lives.
Owning this much media warrants a certain amount of power. If you own all the studios, or near enough all the studios, you don’t have to worry about competition. You don’t have to worry about Unions threatening to quit on mass- because where else could these workers go? There isn’t a platform or a space in the market where they could possibly produce their materials.
It isn’t like the 40’s where Disney went through the Animators strike of 1941. In which the labour strike lasted five weeks, resulting in mass departures from the company. Many of whom set up their own company, United Pictures of America- also known as UPA. To which the Nazi sympathiser himself, Walt Disney, referred to as “the Commies down the street.”
There couldn’t be strike like this today, at least not one that could result in much success.
This isn’t even bringing into mind the ever lasting damage that the Disney company has done to copyright laws. Meaning that most forms of media and published content have not been able to enter the public domain for decades. Which is fine when it’s just a cartoon mouse, not so much when its an academic paper.
The companies influence has also given some threat to investigative journalism. With Disney banning the LA Times from their critics viewing of Thor: Ragnarok due to the paper publishing an article detailing an infrastructure scandal regarding one of their theme parks. Their ban was revoked after more outlets began to boycott their products, but the fact that they would even do this in the first place is greatly concerning.
With the power to bully Unions, persuade governments and extort prices and access to their content, Disney has facilitated a perfect ecosystem to breed the next generation of Weinstein’s. If you climb this corporate ladder, if you know enough people, if you make yourself essential and irreplaceable- you will become untouchable. The Mouse will protect you, regardless of the horrors you commit.
But with that being said, Disney isn’t as powerful as it seems. With Sony reclaiming the rights to Spider-Man after a legal dispute and the success the LA Times had in their boycott, the multi national corporate conglomerate can be brought down. It can be regulated, it can be stopped. Whether or not the right people at the right time are able to do the right thing remains to be seen. But in the meantime, the mouse eats and grows bigger and bigger.