Chicken Soup For The Soul Becoming The Next Disney?

This seems ambitious.

By Vic Medina | Published

chicken soup for the soul

It started off as a self-help book that no one wanted to publish. It’s now a billion-dollar brand and multimedia conglomerate ready to give Disney a run for its money. It’s Chicken Soup for the Soul, and the creative minds behind the NASDAQ-traded corporation are looking to the Disney model to change the world of entertainment. And they are doing it with a family-friendly, inspirational approach to media. In a new report by The AV Club, the company claims it could become the next big thing by embracing the core values The House of Mouse once had, before a corporate mindset took over. They are doing it through more than books; it’s now a full-service entertainment company, including a free streaming service.

Chicken Soup For The Soul CEO Bill Rouhana has made several acquisitions in the last few years that are positioning the company to be much more than its original purpose of publishing inspirational books. It wants to be a full-service entertainment destination, highlighted by its recent acquisition of both Crackle (Sony’s free video streaming service) and Redbox, the still-popular DVD rental kiosks. The rebranding of Chicken Soup is not unprecedented in the media industry. AMC got its start as a classic movie channel called American Movie Classics, until Turner Classic Movies became the dominant network for such programming. AMC became a network that specialized in original programming, creating the shows Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and Better Call Saul. Chicken Soup wants to do the same thing. And sell you dog food as well.

Chicken Soup also expanded into other products that didn’t make much sense at the time, but worked out in their favor. That included a line of dog food, that has turned out to be a hit, by using their brand to promote the “all-natural” product. They recently added Chicken Soup for the Soul Cat Food as well. After acquiring Crackle, the company also bought streamer PopcornFlix, as they prep their own streaming service, which is available to preview on Crackle but will soon be available as a stand-along service on Roku, Amazon Fire, and other providers. They have also been acquiring media companies, like Halcyon Studios, to purchase their content catalogs and make their own programming.

In 1993, the original Chicken Soup for the Soul book, by motivational speakers Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, became a New York Times bestseller by telling inspirational, true-life stories. A line of similar books followed, each geared to a different audience: Chicken Soup for the African American Soul, Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul, etc. Well over a hundred books have been written in the nearly thirty years since the first book went to print by a small publishing house, after every major publisher rejected it. Now, the company is looking to take the next step, and become something more.

“It would be the kind of evolution that Disney went through,” Rouhana said in an interview about his vision for Chicken Soup for the Soul. “From a children’s entertainment company to a company that owns Marvel and Star Wars and a whole bunch of other things.” The company’s acquisition of 1091 Pictures and Screen Media Ventures, the production company behind The Outpost and Willy’s Wonderland (with Nicolas Cage), gives them the ability to make TV and movies on a bigger budget, and now with a streaming service to offer it on.