Think of it this way: For buyers and consumers alike, Mickey Mouse exemplifies Disney, for the most part a safe, dependable vehicle, with the added distribution might of Capital Cities/ABC on the horizon. News Corp. is more like "The Simpsons"' Bart: enticing, risk-taking, but with a bit of an attitude.
Sure, Disney's got the product and the reach (see holdings chart above). But there's also some nasty history (anyone remember EuroDisney before it became profitable?) that indicates Disney sometimes tries to force the culture of the happiest place on earth elsewhere.
News Corp.'s recent alliance with MCI Communications Corp. gives it the pipeline and war chest for future acquisitions (AA, May 15). The company already has TV holdings on five continents, satellite TV on two and an almost unending list of print properties. But Chairman Rupert Murdoch has had his own culture clashes, including a run-in with the Chinese over communism.
So who will win, Mickey or Bart, as purveyor of Western culture (and products)? The experts warn don't count out one other character: Ted Turner.
"When you're talking about who's reaching kids around the globe, don't leave out Turner," said Alec Gerster, exec VP-media, Grey Advertising, New York. "You can't ignore what he's doing with the Cartoon Network worldwide."
As for Disney vs. News Corp., he said: "For distribution, I'd say Cap Cities has gone the farthest in the areas of sports .... News Corp. has good distribution, but less focus in content. However, some of their best content has been for kids. Disney has not yet established its TV distribution for kids."