Just days before the Aug. 17 premiere of "High School Musical 2," Disney Channel Worldwide topper Rich Ross found himself in one of the few countries on Earth that hasn't experienced the net's teenybopper song-and-dance phenomenon. Yet.
Ross was vacationing last week in Croatia, which will soon see the bow of 2006's "High School Musical"; China, Russia and other former Eastern Bloc countries aren't far behind. By the end of the year, the franchise's global supremacy will be complete.
In the 18 months since the movie first bowed on the Disney Channel, "High School Musical" has poured $100 million into Disney's operating income -- not bad for something that started out as just another telepic.
What's more, the brand has created a ripple effect. "High School Musical" has helped strengthen the company's international channel presence (which includes 27 Disney Channels and 60 overseas outlets overall) and has impacted almost every division, from home entertainment, the film studio (now developing a feature "HSM"), theme parks, licensing and merchandising, and more.
"It's everything imaginable," Ross says. "This is a global business."
More than 170 million viewers have watched the movie worldwide. It has sold 7.8 million DVDs globally, and the soundtrack has clocked sales of 7 million globally.
Nearly 2,000 U.S. high schools have performed stage versions (each pays a small licensing fee to Disney). More than 100 licensed products are on shelves or are about to hit stores.
The frenzy has no signs of letting up. In its 21st (yes, 21st) run on Disney Channel, a repeat showing of "High School Musical" pulled in 5.8 million viewers last month, making it July's eighth-most-watched primetime cable telecast. Now, Disney Channel execs have their sights set on the sequel's bow, as the "HSM" hubbub -- which never really died down -- starts anew.