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Disney Turns To Porn

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Feb 12, 2004 12:00 AM PST    Text size: 
BURBANK, Calif. – Comcast made a major play for Walt Disney Thursday that not only surprised the Mouseketeer's board of directors, but may have also caused animation icon Walt Disney to roll over in his grave what with Comcast's reputation for being one of the largest providers of cable porn content.

The question waggling on every industry analyst's tongue is whether the conservative Disney board of directors will ever get past Comcast's porn stigma and whether the king of family entertainment will soon be making its bed with the queen of adult entertainment.

Comcast is one of the nation's largest cable television distributors of porn movies, adult channels, and pay-per-view programming. According to reports, Comcast earned an estimated $50 million from porn last year alone.

Comcast's offer is reportedly for $66 billion in stock and could lay the track for creating one of the largest media conglomerates in the world, outside of AOL/Time Warner.

There is also speculation that Comcast is planning to use its merger with Disney as an opportunity to move full force into the video-on-demand space, which the cable operator has so far been unable to conquer because of its failure to rally mainstream networks and media content providers. Analysts are calling it a marriage of new technologies and content, a winning combination.

By owning the lion's share of Disney content, Comcast could potentially parlay video-on-demand and high-speed delivery into a successful and hugely profitable business unit.

Only a few hours after the public announcement of the billion-dollar bid, family advocacy groups are roiling over Disney's possible merger with a porn purveyor.

"A lot of us have concerns about some of the things that Disney does, but they still produce a lot of positive family-values movies," the president of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families told the Chicago Tribune.

"We don't believe Comcast is family-friendly," he continued. "The management of Comcast has shown no hesitation to distribute hardcore and softcore pornography. So what does that say about the product and environment of what Disney's going to produce in the years ahead?"

Another concern among analysts is whether Disney and Comcast will meet a similar fate as AOL/Time Warner, which their initial merge, began to sag under the weight of their own enormity.

Disney houses a formidable collection of media companies and theme parks, including the ABC broadcast television network, cable networks including ESPN and the Disney Channel, 10 theme parks in Orlando, Anaheim, Paris and Tokyo, with another being built in Hong Kong, Walt Disney Pictures, Miramax Studios, and 10 television stations, according to the Associated Press. The company's profits in 2003 were $1.27 billion.

In contrast, Comcast's 2003 profits came in at $3.24 billion. The company boasts 21 million subscribers and 5.3 million high-speed Internet subscribers. Comcast owns a stake in the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers, Comcast SportsNet, E! Entertainment Television, the Style Network, the Golf Channel, Outdoor Life Network, and G4.

Earlier this week, Walt Disney Co. reported stronger-than-expected first quarter earnings. Just after the announcement was made of the possible merger, Comcast stock value dropped $3.12 to $30.81, whereas Disney jumped $3.69, or 15 percent, to $27.77.

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