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||Franchise||Year Created||Revenue (USD)||Main Revenue Source|
|#3||Winnie the Pooh||1924||$75B||Merchandise|
|#9||Jump Comics||1968||$34B||Comics and Manga|
|#10||Harry Potter||1997||$31B||Box Office|
|#11||Marvel Cinematic Universe||2008||$29B||Box Office|
|#15||Dragonball||1984||$24B||Comic and Manga|
|#17||Fist of The North Star||1983||$22B||Video Games|
|#20||One Piece||1997||$20B||Comics and Manga|
|#21||Lord of The Rings||1937||$20B||Book Sales|
|#22||James Bond||1953||$20B||Box Office|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Generation||Age range (years)||Birth year range|
|The Silent Generation||76 and over||1928-1945|
|Gen Alpha||8 and below||2013-present|
Using these age groups as a framework, we then calculated the Cultural Power category using these distinct equally-weighted variables:
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%.
|Generation||Cultural Power Share|
|The Silent Generation||8.8%|
*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).
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.
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)
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.
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.
|1||🇺🇸 The New York Times||7,500,000|
|2||🇺🇸 The Washington Post||3,000,000|
|3||🇺🇸 The Wall Street Journal||2,400,000|
|4||🇺🇸 Game Informer||2,100,000|
|5||🇬🇧 Financial Times||1,100,000|
|6||🇺🇸 The Athletic||1,000,000|
|7||🇬🇧 The Guardian||790,000|
|9||🇬🇧 The Economist||516,000|
|12||🇬🇧 The Sunday Times||337,000|
|13||🇬🇧 The Telegraph||320,000|
|14||🇺🇸 The Atlantic||300,000|
|15||🇮🇹 Corriere Della Sera||300,000|
|16||🇫🇷 Le Monde||300,000|
|17||🇺🇸 The Boston Globe||270,000|
|18||🇦🇷 La Nacion||260,000|
|21||🇺🇸 Los Angeles Times||253,000|
|23||🇺🇸 The New Yorker||240,000|
|25||🇧🇷 Folha de S.Paulo||236,000|
|26||🇸🇪 Dagens Nyheter||208,000|
|27||🇺🇸 Business Insider||200,000|
|31||🇨🇦 The Globe and Mail||139,000|
|34||🇫🇷 Le Figaro||110,000|
|35||🇺🇸 Chicago Tribune||100,000|
|36||🇺🇸 Star Tribune||100,000|
|38||🇫🇮 Helsingin Sanomat||100,000|
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.
|Publication||Year Launched||Age (Years)|
|🇬🇧 The Guardian||1821||200|
|🇬🇧 The Sunday Times||1821||200|
|🇫🇷 Le Figaro||1826||195|
|🇬🇧 The Economist||1843||178|
|🇺🇸 Chicago Tribune||1847||173|
|🇬🇧 The Telegraph||1855||166|
|🇺🇸 The Atlantic||1857||164|
|🇸🇪 Dagens Nyheter||1864||157|
|🇺🇸 Star Tribune||1867||154|
|🇦🇷 La Nacion||1870||151|
|🇺🇸 The Boston Globe||1872||149|
|🇮🇹 Corriere Della Sera||1876||145|
|🇺🇸 Washington Post||1877||144|
|🇺🇸 LA Times||1881||140|
|🇬🇧 Financial Times||1888||133|
|🇺🇸 Wall Street Journal||1889||132|
|🇫🇮 Helsingin Sanomat||1889||132|
|🇧🇷 Folha de S.Paulo||1921||100|
|🇺🇸 The New Yorker||1925||96|
|🇨🇦 The Globe and Mail||1936||85|
|🇫🇷 Le Monde||1944||77|
|🇺🇸 Game Informer||1991||30|
|🇺🇸 Business Insider||2007||14|
|🇺🇸 The Athletic||2016||5|
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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