Comcast is spending a 'fantastic' amount of money to catch a Mouse

December 13, 2018, 10:26 PM · Earlier today, we told you about a leak of the supposed name of the new theme park that Universal Orlando has all but confirmed it is building in Orlando. Well, more sources have checked in with us from Comcast's employee town hall, which apparently is where the now-leaked image was shown yesterday.

Comcast VP and NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke reportedly said at the town hall that "we are going to do fourth gate in Orlando" and that Universal would open its park in Beijing "in the next five years." That's news, because a five-year window for Universal Studios Beijing's debut would extend its projected opening date to as late as 2023. Its original opening date was next year, but it's been widely known for some time that the opening would fall after that.

Burke also said that Disney had gotten "a free ride" without aggressive competition in the past, until Universal stepped up. Over the past eight years and into the next five years, Burke said that Comcast would invest more money in the theme park business than it spent to obtain all of NBCUniversal.

How much is that? Comcast spent $6.7 billion in cash for a 51 percent stake in NBCUniversal in 2011, then another $16.7 billion in cash to get the rest of the company in 2013. Depending on what he meant by "spent for all of NBCUniversal," that could mean anywhere from the final $16.7 billion payment to the full $23.4 billion in cash expenditures.

Whichever figure he meant, that's an average of between one and two billion dollars a year in theme park investment between 2010-2023, which would include the time from the opening of the original Wizarding World land in Orlando, through the acquisition of the remaining 49 percent of Universal Studios Japan for $2.3 billion, plus the reported $1.6 billion-plus expansion of Universal Studios Hollywood, and on to the reported $6.5 billion for the construction of Universal Studios Beijing.

And don't forget the cost of Super Nintendo World in Japan and three additional Wizarding World lands, plus the costs of adding of Volcano Bay and four hotels at Universal Orlando, too... not to mention the money to obtain the land and develop that new theme park at its largest resort.

That's a lot of money to catch a Mouse.

Replies (26)

December 14, 2018 at 12:49 AM

The theme park wars and their accompanying attractions arms race continues, even with the cooycat rhetoric from execs. After all, it hasn't even been a month since Disney announced it would spend more on their own theme parks than they spent to acquire Pixar, Marvel and Lucas Films combined....no wonder Comcast's tit for tat declaration gives me deja vu:)

December 14, 2018 at 6:47 AM

Do we think this could encourage wdw to open a 5th gate? (Exclud. Water parks)

December 14, 2018 at 8:43 AM

I think this is a great thing overall since it will push both companies to innovate and not just push the obvious attractions. The downside is that guests will bear the brunt of all this spending and see higher costs for tickets, food, and more. There has to be a tipping point on that front, especially if there's a recession.

December 14, 2018 at 9:44 AM

It’ll encourage WDW to build more DVCs not a new park or evennew rides for their half day parks.

December 14, 2018 at 10:07 AM

There are no "half day parks" at WDW. Disney has laid out its plans for Orlando to 2021-2022. They include more attractions (E-tickets). I have no doubt that Universal's plans are every bit as grand ... But they won't catch up with that mouse.

December 14, 2018 at 11:34 AM

That Mouse is a moving target! The theme park wars continue...;)

December 14, 2018 at 1:45 PM

Those of us that have been around the block for decades know that Universal has always acted like this since before the park even opened. That quote where he said Disney had gotten a free ride without competition is literally EXACTLY what Universal's execs were saying when Universal Studios was announced back in the 80's. Then IOA was the Disney killer. Then Harry Potter was the Disney killer.

It's nice that their spending a lot of money but spending a lot of money doesn't mean people are going to like their parks as much as Disney. Universal's constant bashing of Disney over the past few decades is really old, tired, false, and it just flat out makes them look stupid. Look at the "Universal Cinematic Celebration," which opened six years after World of Color and is pretty much a blatant ripoff. The show sucks. World of Color is a great show that's loved by millions of people. Since Potter UO has added Dispacable Me (let down), Transformes (which is OK but the scenes are lazily thrown together and can be nauseating, compare that to a simulator like Flight of Passage which is very thrilling, flows extremely well, and is not nauseating at all), Race through New York (let down), Kong (once again OK but lazily thrown together...i'd say it's even lazy compared to the Kong ride they used to have), Fast & Furious (let down), Cinematic Celebration (let down).

Even with IOA, and Potter, and the soon to be Fantastic Worlds park, Universal will never compare to Disney attendance wise no matter what the blabbermouths keep saying. The average day at the Magic Kingdom (according to TEA) is 52,000 people. That attendance is like Harry Potters opening day at IOA in 2010. Universal might have a big pocket book and a big mouth, but they definitely don't have the better parks and it shows.

December 14, 2018 at 1:32 PM

And not only at the parks is Disney still crushing Universal but also at the box office

2018
1. Black Panther (Disney)
2. Infinity Wars (Disney)
3. Incredibles 2 (Disney)
4. Jurassic World (Universal)
5. Deadpool 2 (Fox)

2017
1. The Last Jedi (Disney)
2. Beauty and the Beast (Disney)
3. Wonder Woman (Warner Bros)
4. Jumanji (Sony)
5. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (Disney)

2016
1. Rogue One (Disney)
2. Finding Dory (Disney)
3. Captain America Civil War (Disney)
4. Secret Life of Pets (Universal)
5. Jungle Book (Disney)

2015
1.The Force Awakens (Disney)
2. Jurassic World (Universal)
3. Age of Ultron (Disney)
4. Inside Out (Disney)
5. Furious 7 (Universal)

December 14, 2018 at 1:52 PM

Great news, even more fun to have in the future in my favorite resort.

December 14, 2018 at 2:46 PM

Magic Kingdom is a full day park, Epcot is a 3/4 day park, Animal Kingdom is a 3/5 day park and Hollywood Studios is a 1/4 day park, so TH is right, there are no half day parks at WDW. (I take that back, maybe Disney Springs is a half day park.)
Based on these facts, WDW is 3/5 of a day in front of what UOR offers between its two full day parks, so once Universal opens Fantastic Worlds, the Mouse will be left behind.

December 14, 2018 at 3:45 PM

Sort of getting off topic but nothing has been announced for Animal Kingdom and I was able to do everything worthwhile there in half a day after Pandora opened. I was able to stretch Epcot into a full day but that includes the excessive walking, Food & Wine and the educational stuff you can see in every city (aquariums, botanical gardens). Guardians and Ratatouille will at least help with the parks limited attraction capacity. Studios will be a full park by 2020 but was stagnant almost two decades.

December 14, 2018 at 5:16 PM

"... But was stagnant ...."

Emphasis on "was".

Chase the mouse children.

December 14, 2018 at 6:35 PM

KS: "Epcot is a 3/4 day park..."

I respond: For which demographic?

KS: "Hollywood Studios is a 1/4 day park ..

I respond: For which demographic?

KS: Animal Kingdom is a 3/5 day park ..."

I respond: "For which demographic?"

If we give ANY cred to the AECOM/TEA soothsayers what the hell does fractions related to park experiences even mean -- he posted to white, middle class commenters (aged 21-49) who patronize the Internet?


December 14, 2018 at 7:16 PM

Facts are facts - WDW has one full day park, UOR has two. Disneyland Resort has two full day parks as does TDR, why can’t WDW be more like those Disney Resorts. In fact, Universal’s Volcano Bay is more of a full day park than DHS. Whether you like it or not, facts are facts.

December 14, 2018 at 7:57 PM

In my opinion DAK and Epcot are more of full day parks than USF. DAK is my favorite park in the world (and i've been to every Disney and Universal park in the world and most all SF/CF/Busch Parks). And on top of that I don't even like Everest very much.

December 15, 2018 at 10:36 AM

We're usually done with each Universal park by 5 pm, and that's doing all the rides and some of the shows. We spend a lot more time in each Disney park, again doing all the rides and some of the shows. SO much more to do at Disney. Overall, Disney is more immersive as a resort, so I think Universal is still "chasing the mouse".

December 15, 2018 at 10:36 AM

Both Universal parks are full day parks. All Disney parks are full day parks except for DHS, and that is about to change big time. Not sure I would spend five minutes in Disney Springs, as I can shop at home. The only reason I spend any time in Universal City Walk is because the parks close early, it is right there, and the restaurants are fair.

December 15, 2018 at 12:23 PM

@Sue Fenick: "We're usually done with each Universal park by 5 pm, and that's doing all the rides and some of the shows. We spend a lot more time in each Disney park, again doing all the rides and some of the shows. SO much more to do at Disney."

I think you are mistaking your waiting in long lines versus being to experience the rides and shows quicker as "SO much more to do at Disney.

December 15, 2018 at 12:31 PM

Disney will always be ahead of Universal, but it has NOTHING to do with the quality of rides or shows at either one ... it has EVERYTHING to do with Television and Movies. Disney has a better path into your home, a familiarity that you reward with your allegiance.

That is why people like TH defend Disney no matter what ... even though Universal is no threat to Disney whatsoever. Disney isn't going away, Universal isn't going away. One can enjoy both, only Disney, only Universal, or neither without having to bash one or the other. They both offer what they offer and you can choose where to spend your money, but that doesn't mean the other one sucks.

December 15, 2018 at 10:16 PM

Universal might never "catch the mouse" however one things for sure. Its because of Universals huge investments into their resorts and the wild success of the Wizarding world of HP that Disney finally started to invest in their US resorts again. Without Universal Disney would probably be building a 3rd resort in China, Singapore or Dubai and neglect Epcot and DHS for another decade, and we probably never would have gotten a Galaxys Edge or Pandora.

December 15, 2018 at 6:51 PM

Thank you Daniel Galvan,

People seem to forget that Disney's strategy for its' theme parks Pre-Potter according to reports was just going to be rehab and refurbishments of existing rides, nothing new was seriously planned, How the boy wizard changed things for the better.

December 16, 2018 at 2:56 PM

These comments need to be seen for exactly what they are:

Marketing

Nothing more, Universal will never be Disney or beat Disney. Don't get me wrong, I love all the Disney & Universal parks (I have been to all of them except Disney in Shanghai & Hong Kong)

But they can't come out and say "We're number 2!"

If they say they are going to compete with Disney, then even if they fall flat, they do so by aiming (or at least saying they are) for the heights.

December 16, 2018 at 3:44 PM

D. Galvan: "Its because of Universals huge investments into their resorts and the wild success of the Wizarding world of HP that Disney finally started to invest in their US resorts again."

I Respond: Armchair Imagineer nonsense.

December 16, 2018 at 7:03 PM

@TH

In 2010 Wizarding World opens @ IOA. 1 year later Disney begins construction of New Fantasyland and announces Pandora World of Avatar.

In 2014 Diagon Alley opens in USF. 1 year later Galaxys Edge is announced by Disney.

In 2017 Volcano bay opens. 1 year later Toy Story Land opens in DHS.

The 4 major projects of WDW theme parks from the last decade seem to occur about 1 year after Universal debuts a major resort expansion. I cant wait to see what Disney announces after Nintendonland opens!

December 17, 2018 at 11:56 AM

I have to agree with TH that Universal will always be chasing Disney. The fact of the matter is that Disney will always have the upper hand because of business decisions that were made decades ago. They're sitting on land that was bought at pennies on the dollar compared to what Universal is spending simply to expand their footprint slightly. Disney has also been building their brand and customer loyalty for years, which even after a decade of neglect in the 00's could not degrade. The Drones are real, and even if Universal were to offer a brick by brick copy of the MK, they still wouldn't draw the same attendance because it would lack Disney's branding.

However, I think it's clear that Disney has been reacting to the success Universal has seen over the past 10 years. I don't think Disney feels immediately threatened by Universal's developments, but as a smart business that has always sought to stay 2 steps ahead, they are wisely investing now to keep their competitors at an arm's length. They saw the gap between them and Universal starting to narrow (though it was still a great chasm), and instead of waiting to the point where they truly felt threatened and when trying to rush improvements would increase the costs, they are being proactive to keep their spot in the penthouse while Universal is spending billions just to get on the elevator out of the lobby.

From a critical standpoint, Disney has made plenty of missteps, most notably their lack of original additions to WDW and DL during the 00's, but they've built up such a huge advantage from their early business decisions and brand management, that this is not even a David and Goliath story, because Universal's as David wouldn't even have a slingshot, he'd just have spitballs. Disney is probably annoyed at Universal's spitballs, but in the end, Disney will continue to be an unstoppable juggernaut as long as they don't grow complaisant, which is why Universal got a foothold in the 00's.

December 18, 2018 at 4:53 PM

It`s great for the fans that both companies are spending billions to compete in the theme park business. But I agree with the other posters: Universal`s massive investments will only allow them to maintain their number 2 position in the industry. Among other reasons, Disney has the "family market" pretty much locked up.

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