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The World’s 25 Most Successful Media Franchises, and How They Stay Relevant

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The World's 25 Most Successful Media Franchises, and How They Stay Relevant

The World’s 25 Most Successful Media Franchises, and How They Stay Relevant

Great stories come and go, but there are a certain few that can truly stand the test of time.

Tugging on the heartstrings with nostalgic stories can be a powerful tool. Yet, even the most world-renowned storytellers like Disney face pressure to constantly innovate.

Today’s infographic from TitleMax illustrates the highest-grossing media franchises, and dives into how they generate their revenue and adapt to new mediums in changing times.

The Supreme Storytellers

According to the infographic, the majority of franchise revenue comes from merchandising. Video games, comic books, and Japanese manga are also significant drivers of income.

Rank
FranchiseYear CreatedRevenue (USD)Main Revenue Source
#1Pokémon1996$92BMerchandise
#2Hello Kitty1974$80BMerchandise
#3Winnie the Pooh1924$75BMerchandise
#4Mickey Mouse1928$70BMerchandise
#5Star Wars1977$66BMerchandise
#6Anpanman1973$60BMerchandise
#7Disney Princesses2000$45BMerchandise
#8Mario1981$36BVideo Games
#9Jump Comics1968$34BComics and Manga
#10Harry Potter1997$31BBox Office
#11Marvel Cinematic Universe2008$29BBox Office
#12Spiderman1962$27BMerchandise
#13Gudam1979$26BMerchandise
#14Batman1939$26BMerchandise
#15Dragonball1984$24BComic and Manga
#16Barbie1959$24BMerchandise
#17Fist of The North Star1983$22BVideo Games
#18Cars2006$22BMerchandise
#19Toy Story1995$20BMerchandise
#20One Piece1997$20BComics and Manga
#21Lord of The Rings1937$20BBook Sales
#22James Bond1953$20BBox Office
#23Yu-Gi-Oh1996$20BTrading Cards
#24Peanuts1950$17BMerchandise
#25Transformers1984$17BMerchandise

Perhaps surprisingly, Marvel is not included in the top 10. Despite nearly $30 billion revenue and a long history rooted in comic books, the entertainment behemoth still has much ground to cover as the newest franchise in the ranking.

Reinventing a Classic

While the list proves that success builds over time, these classics need to constantly reinvent themselves as their audiences become reliant on new technologies and demand more immersive experiences.

Pokémon

As the highest grossing media franchise earning roughly $4 billion a year, Pokémon’s strength lies in it ability to adapt to new technology.

The Japanese phenomenon has continued to reposition itself since it first introduced Pokémon cards in 1996. These days, the franchise is perhaps best known for bringing augmented reality to the masses with Pokémon Go—an app that attracted 50 million users in just 19 days.

Hello Kitty

Yet another Japanese brand tops the list of media franchises. With 50,000 product lines available in over 130 countries and cumulative revenue of $80 billion, Hello Kitty is famous for harnessing the power of cute.

The fictional character has evolved into a globally recognized symbol as a result of big name partnerships and licensing deals with the likes of Puma, Asos and Herschel—and is etched onto almost every type of accessory thinkable.

More recently, the brand announced its foray into video games, and will collaborate with the global esports organization FNATIC on content and merchandise.

Winnie the Pooh

The chronicles of Winnie the Pooh have transcended time by providing a connection to the innate wonder of childhood.

Originally created following World War I, the newest movie rendition “Christopher Robin” became the highest-grossing film in the franchise, grossing $197 million worldwide.

Mickey Mouse

With 97% brand name recognition, Mickey Mouse is officially more recognizable than Santa Claus. Similarly to Winnie the Pooh, Disney introduced Mickey Mouse as a symbol of hope following the World War.

Over 90 years later, global brands such as L’oreal, Beats, Uniqlo and more recently, Gucci are paying homage. In 2019, the luxury fashion brand licensed the Mickey Mouse image for a 3D printed bag worth $4,500, making it even more of a ubiquitous symbol of pop culture.

Star Wars

Another Disney favorite, Star Wars holds the title of most successful movie franchise, with cumulative revenues of $65 billion.

The franchise successfully appeals to a multi-generational audience by mixing old characters with new storylines, such as ‘The Mandalorian’, broadcasting on the new streaming service Disney+—hailed as one of the more exciting moves to come from the saga.

Making Magic

Disney owns three out of the top five highest grossing franchises, so it comes as no surprise that the media conglomerate is investing heavily in digital innovation to provide a more immersive customer experience.

In fact, every franchise in the ranking relies on multiple touchpoints and revenue streams to create a more interactive and emotional experience for their audience.

By harnessing a compelling combination of both imagination and technology, Disney and other top global franchises can continue to lead in the business of making magic.

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Which U.S. Generation Wields the Most Cultural Power?

Visual Capitalist’s first-ever Generational Power Index looks at which U.S. generation holds the most cultural influence in American society.

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cultural power GPI

Which U.S. Generation Wields the Most Cultural Power?

This year, our team put together Visual Capitalist’s inaugural Generational Power Index (GPI), which looks at power dynamics across generations in America.

We considered three categories in our quest to quantify power: economics, political, and cultural. And while it turns that out Baby Boomers dominate when it comes to economics and political factors—the are of cultural influence is a different story.

Here’s a look at which U.S. generation holds the most cultural power, and how this power dynamic is expected to shift in the coming years.

Generations and Power, Defined

Before we get started, it’s important to clarify which generations we’ve included in our research, along with their age and birth year ranges.

GenerationAge range (years)Birth year range
The Silent Generation76 and over1928-1945
Baby Boomers57-751946-1964
Gen X41-561965-1980
Millennials25-401981-1996
Gen Z9-241997-2012
Gen Alpha8 and below2013-present

Using these age groups as a framework, we then calculated the Cultural Power category using these distinct equally-weighted variables:

cultural power category breakdown

With this methodology in mind, here’s how the Cultural Power category shakes out, using insights from the GPI.

Share of Cultural Power by Generation

Overall, we found that Gen X captures the largest share of cultural power, at 36%.

GenerationCultural Power Share
The Silent Generation8.8%
Baby Boomers25.1%
Gen X36.0%
Millennials23.9%
Gen Z6.1%
Gen Alpha0.00%
Total99.9%

*Note: figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Gen X is particularly dominant in the film and TV industry, along with news media. For instance, over half of America’s largest news corporations have a Gen Xer as their CEO, and roughly 50% of Oscar winners in 2020 were members of Gen X.

Baby Boomers come in second place, capturing a 25% share of cultural power. They show particular dominance in traditional entertainment like books and art. For example, 42% of the authors on the NYT’s best-selling books list were Baby Boomers.

However, these older generations fall short in one critical category—digital platforms.

The Dominance of Digital

Why is digital so important when it comes to cultural power? Because digital media becoming increasingly more popular than traditional media sources (e.g. TV, radio).

GPI Cultural Power By Generation Supplemental Time Spent on Media

In 2020, Americans spent nearly 8 hours per day consuming digital media, nearly two hours more per day than they spent with traditional media.

This divide is expected to grow even further over the next few years. With younger generations dominating the digital space, Gen X may soon lose its place as the top dog of the culture category.

Celebrity 2.0: The Social Influencer

As audiences flock to online channels, advertisers have followed suit—and they’re willing to spend good money to gain access to their target demographics.

In fact, spend on influencer marketing has steadily increased in the last five years, and it’s expected to reach $13.8 billion by the end of 2021.

GPI Cultural Power By Generation Supplemental Influencer Marketing Spend

This shift to social media advertising is redefining the notion of celebrity, and who reaps the financial benefits of content creation. For instance, six-year-old Vlogger Like Nastya made an estimated $7.7 million per month from her YouTube channel in 2020. And keep in mind, this estimate is purely based on YouTube revenue—it doesn’t even include corporate partnerships and/or merchandise sales.

With all these shifts occurring, culture as we know it is at a crossroads. And as we continue to move towards a digital dominant society, those who hold power in traditional realms will either adapt or pass along the torch.

Download the Generational Power Report (.pdf)

The Generational Power Index

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Ranked: The Most Popular Paid Subscription News Websites

Many consumers are reluctant to pay for their news, but those that do turn to trusted sources. Here’s a look at the most subscribed to news websites.

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Ranked: The Most Popular Subscription News Websites

While paywalls are becoming increasingly more popular among news websites, most consumers still aren’t willing to pay for their online news.

In fact, a recent survey by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism reveals that only 20% of Americans pay for digital news, and of those that do, the majority subscribe to only one brand.

This begs the question—which news outlets are audiences willing to pay for?

Using data from FIPP and CeleraOne, this graphic looks at the most popular news websites across the globe, based on their total number of paid subscriptions.

*Note: This report relies on publicly available data, and should not be considered an exhaustive list.

The Full Breakdown

With 7.5 million subscriptions, The New York Times (NYT) takes the top spot on the list. 2020 was an exceptionally strong year for the outlet—by Q3 2020, the NYT had generated the same amount of revenue from digital subscriptions as it had for the entire year of 2019.

RankPublicationPaid Subscriptions
1🇺🇸 The New York Times7,500,000
2🇺🇸 The Washington Post3,000,000
3🇺🇸 The Wall Street Journal2,400,000
4🇺🇸 Game Informer2,100,000
5🇬🇧 Financial Times1,100,000
6🇺🇸 The Athletic1,000,000
7🇬🇧 The Guardian790,000
8🇯🇵 Nikkei769,000
9🇬🇧 The Economist516,000
10🇨🇳 Caixin510,000
11🇩🇪 Bild494,000
12🇬🇧 The Sunday Times337,000
13🇬🇧 The Telegraph320,000
14🇺🇸 The Atlantic300,000
15🇮🇹 Corriere Della Sera300,000
16🇫🇷 Le Monde300,000
17🇺🇸 The Boston Globe270,000
18🇦🇷 La Nacion260,000
19🇦🇷 Clarin260,000
20🇫🇷 L'equipe259,000
21🇺🇸 Los Angeles Times253,000
22🇸🇪 Aftonbladet250,000
23🇺🇸 The New Yorker240,000
24🇵🇱 Wyborcza240,000
25🇧🇷 Folha de S.Paulo236,000
26🇸🇪 Dagens Nyheter208,000
27🇺🇸 Business Insider200,000
28🇫🇷 Mediapart170,000
29🇳🇴 VG150,000
30🇺🇸 Wired142,000
31🇨🇦 The Globe and Mail139,000
32🇩🇪 Welt132,000
33🇳🇴 Aftenposten119,000
34🇫🇷 Le Figaro110,000
35🇺🇸 Chicago Tribune100,000
36🇺🇸 Star Tribune100,000
37🇳🇴 Dagbladet100,000
38🇫🇮 Helsingin Sanomat100,000

The Times is the most popular by a landslide—it has over double the number of subscriptions than the second outlet on the list, The Washington Post. Yet, while WaPo is no match for NYT, it still boasts a strong following, with approximately 3 million paid subscriptions as of Q4 2020.

Japanese outlet Nikkei ranks number one among the non-English news websites. It’s the largest business newspaper in Japan, mainly focusing on markets and finance, but also covering politics, sports, and health.

Legacy Papers: Which Websites Come From Traditional Media?

Most of the websites on this list stem from traditional media. Because of this, they’ve had years to establish themselves as trusted sources, and win over loyal readers.

Interestingly, more than half of the outlets included in this ranking are at least 100 years old.

PublicationYear LaunchedAge (Years)
🇬🇧 The Guardian1821200
🇬🇧 The Sunday Times1821200
🇫🇷 Le Figaro1826195
🇸🇪 Aftonbladet1830190
🇬🇧 The Economist1843178
🇺🇸 Chicago Tribune1847173
🇺🇸 NYT1852169
🇬🇧 The Telegraph1855166
🇺🇸 The Atlantic1857164
🇳🇴 Aftenposten1860160
🇸🇪 Dagens Nyheter1864157
🇺🇸 Star Tribune1867154
🇳🇴 Dagbladet1869152
🇦🇷 La Nacion1870151
🇺🇸 The Boston Globe1872149
🇮🇹 Corriere Della Sera1876145
🇺🇸 Washington Post1877144
🇯🇵 Nikkei.com1876144
🇺🇸 LA Times1881140
🇬🇧 Financial Times1888133
🇺🇸 Wall Street Journal1889132
🇫🇮 Helsingin Sanomat1889132
🇧🇷 Folha de S.Paulo1921100
🇺🇸 The New Yorker192596
🇨🇦 The Globe and Mail193685
🇫🇷 Le Monde194477
🇦🇷 Clarin194576
🇳🇴 VG194576
🇫🇷 L'equipe194675
🇩🇪 Welt194675
🇩🇪 Bild195269
🇵🇱 Wyborcza198932
🇺🇸 Game Informer199130
🇺🇸 Wired199328
🇺🇸 Business Insider200714
🇫🇷 Mediapart200813
🇨🇳 Caixin200912
🇺🇸 The Athletic20165

Yet, undeterred by these well-established outlets, a few scrappy websites made the cut despite a shorter history. Four out of the 38 websites are less than 20 years old.

The Athletic is the newest outlet to make the ranking. Established in 2016, the outlet’s target demographic is die-hard sports fans who miss the days of in-depth, quality sports writing.

The Need For Trusted Sources

Amidst the global pandemic, issues involving misinformation and fake news have helped reaffirm the important role that trusted news sources play in the dissemination of public information.

With this in mind, it’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for digital media consumption. With paywalls becoming increasingly more common, will consumers jump on board and eventually be more willing to pay for their news?

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