Are You Ready for a 'Star Wars' or Marvel Cable Channel?

Family entertainment giant Disney has big plans for its superheroes and sci-fi stars.

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Singapore Lucasfilm
Wong Maye-E/AP'Star Wars' creator George Lucas poses with characters from the movie franchise in Singapore last year.
Disney (DIS) has spent billions acquiring Marvel and "Star Wars" parent Lucasfilm, and it's just starting to monetize its purchased collection of superheroes and sci-fi stars. We've seen movies, consumer products, and theme park integration -- and the family entertainment giant is just getting started.

There's plenty of real estate left to conquer, and Disney's next big step could be television.

"We have said that with these channels and these brands -- ESPN, ABC, Disney, maybe even down the road something related to Star Wars and Marvel -- we do have an ability as a company to take product, specifically filmed entertainment, television, movies, directly to consumers," CEO Bob Iger said during last week's conference call when asked about Disney's chances to roll out its own streaming service.

Wait a minute. Disney is starting to talk up the potential of Star Wars or Marvel television channels being on the same level as its ESPN, ABC, and Disney Channel juggernauts? This could get interesting.

Green With Hulk Envy

Disney rolling out a Marvel Channel or Star Wars Network probably wouldn't come as a surprise, especially if we're talking about streaming television, where adding channels is far easier to do than with conventional pay-TV access, where spectrum limitations and carriage rights challenges exist. Disney could -- and should -- create different programming options if it does introduce its own version of Sling TV or PlayStation Vue consisting entirely of Disney-owned content.

It also only helps that Disney has been at the forefront of the digital revolution, unlike many of its media-mogul peers. Disney was the first major studio to make its video content available through Apple's (AAPL) iTunes, though it probably didn't hurt that Steve Jobs was Disney's largest shareholder after the purchase of Pixar. Disney also offered up its prized network -- ESPN -- to DISH Network's (DISH) Sling TV streaming service when it launched in February.

Disney was also an early mover in getting its content on Netflix (NFLX), and now that partnership has been expanded to original content starting with last month's "Daredevil." The Marvel series got off to such a hot start that Netflix ponied up for a second season just two weeks after the debut. There are three more original Marvel shows slated to run on Netflix in the near future.

Disney has the content that folks want, and it's not afraid to share it in unconventional ways.

X-Men Mark the Spot

Marvel's "Avengers: Age of Ultron" is the highest-grossing movie so far this year, and that should stand until "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" hits a multiplex not so far, far away come December. This is fertile turf, and five of the seven highest-grossing movies of all time in this country have been either superhero or Star Wars fare.

Disney has already been milking its deep Marvel catalog for the small screen. It's not just "Daredevil" on Netflix. The second season of Marvel's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." recently concluded on Disney-owned ABC. Finding enough content to program an entire channel might not be easy, but the catalog of characters and potential is certainly there.

The challenge will be harder for Star Wars. Disney is just starting to carve out new franchises within the Star Wars universe. That may take time, but they said the same thing about Disney's Marvel acquisition, too. The content will come, and Disney now has the springboard -- streaming television -- to make it happen. Marvel Channel? Star Wars Network? Give it time, but it will happen, because when Disney dreams out loud about things, they usually materialize.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple, Netflix, and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Looking for a winner for your portfolio? Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

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