If a visitor from another planet happened to browse a recent crop of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings, he might get the idea that Harry Potter runs a powerful Wall Street bank. After all, at least a dozen companies list Harry Potter as a factor that either boosted or slowed their sales last year.
Scholastic, the American publisher of the teenage wizard's saga, blamed its sales for the last two quarters in 2004 ($547 million, down 26 percent) on lower Potter revenue. (The most recent installment, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, came out in 2003.) So did Time Warner, which holds exclusive film and merchandizing rights.
The Borders Group and Barnes & Noble also joined the whiners club, the latter saying that lower gross margins came about "due to deep discounts" on The Order of the Phoenix.
On the other hand, toymaker Mattel, videogame maker Electronics Arts and online bookseller Amazon all rubbed their palms. Apparently, Potter fans, lacking anything new to read, found solace in toys and videogames. Looking ahead, Amazon crowed in a quarterly report that "customers worldwide have placed hundreds of thousands of preorders" for the sixth installment in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, due this July.
There's a reason for all that hoopla. Harry Potter is a global brand worth an estimated $1 billion. (We calculated the brand's value as if it were a regular media enterprise, multiplying estimated pretax cash flow by the projected lifetime of the brand.)
This is promising to be a banner year for Potter. In addition to the new book, a new Potter flick, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, is due in theaters this November. And months ahead of its publication date, there's already been much hoopla about book six. When Harry's creator J.K. Rowling announced in December the book's release, preorders immediately swept it to the top of the Amazon bestseller list. It's stayed there since.