The rumour mill has ground out talk that Disney may be set to try and join the likes of Alphabet and Salesforce in trying to woo Twitter into its bed. But why, why on earth would the company behind Mickey Mouse want to buy Twitter?
Did you know that Steve Jobs used to be Disney’s largest shareholder? During those wilderness years, when Jobs was the former boss of Apple, while he was playing with his next venture, called, appropriately enough, Next, he was also instrumental in the formation of an obscure company called Pixar. But then Pixar produced Toy Story. While Disney seemed to lose the plot, launching one duff movie after another, the world smiled and laughed over the antics of Woody, Buzz Lightyear and friends. The good news from Disney’s point of view is that it had the distribution rights to Pixar movies.
But Disney, under its then boss Michael Eisner, a heavyweight of Hollywood in that era, and Steve Jobs, he of Pixar fame, didn’t get on, and it took Roy Disney, nephew of the late Walt, to sort it all out. Eisner stepped down. Disney bought out Pixar, and Jobs became the biggest shareholder.
Since then, Disney has done some big things – Frozen for example, or the purchase of Marvel Entertainment, or the deal to take on a little-known franchise called Star Wars.
But a long time ago, in a TV company far, far away, Disney got big on live sports, and live events via ESPN, and more recently via a big investment in Vice Media. But a force awakened that threatened to condemn the company’s sports venture to a sleeping death, like Snow White.
These days, social media channels like Twitter are big on live sports, too.
They pose a disruptive threat to the established order, they may possibly force Disney sports broadcasting to crash to the ground, like an elephant falling out of a tree.
The thing about disruption is that it is difficult to second guess where it is going. One thing that you can do is try and back a few winners, with the hope that you can incorporate them into your business.
Twitter, is an expensive company, it’s valuation to underlying profits is off the charts, but with a market cap of $16 billion, versus $147 billion for Disney, it is cheap enough for the Mickey Mouse company to buy it.
It may not do any harm that Twitter’s boss, Jack Dorsey, sits on Disney board.
What Twitter has an awful lot of is content – many billions of 140 character messages – some of which are funny, others prophetic, others enough to damn their authors. But it is people tweeting videos of the sport, rock concert or whatever live event they are visiting, that has got the likes of Disney worried.
What critics overlook, however, is the unpredictable nature of disruption. What could Kodak, Blockbusters or Nokia have done to avoid the great wave of creative disruption that drowned them? One thing is for, sure, sitting back, resting on their tried and tested business model, going for safe acquisitions was never going to cut it.
Nokia has enjoyed a second life, Blockbusters and Kodak have joined that great corporate graveyard in the sky. Twitter is no prince, set to awake a sleeping Disney, but it does offer a new hope.