Faber estimates that the Disney Channel accounts for 7-8 percent of the company’s operating income. The channel is just one of many properties in the film and entertainment division – which Atlantic estimates accounts for 17 percent of the operating revenue – and Hannah Montana is one program among many popular offerings on that channel. (Learn more in the CNBC video at left.)
But it has been one of its most successful, with some 6 million viewers between the ages of 6-14.
Since Cyrus is just 15, prospects have seemed bright for it being around for while longer. Last week Cyrus signed a seven-figure Disney book deal and has a film coming out in 2009. In addition there are concerts, CD sales.
But her popularity -- and the blessings of parents -- are based on her image as a good girl or something even more.
“For Miley Cyrus to be a good girl is now a business decision for her,” Gary Marsh, Disney Channel Worldwide president, was quoted as saying last week in Portfolio magazine. “Parents have invested in her godliness. If she violates that trust, she wouldn’t get it back.”
No Business Like Teen Business
The Cyrus flap is the latest in a of series involving youthful stars, whose every antics are scrutinized non-stop by paparazzi and bloggers. Disney’s biggest current hit – the High School Musical franchise, a TV series and movie – endured a brief fallout when one of its star posted nude photos of herself online.
The star of Viacom's hit TV show, Zoey 101, Jamie Lynne Spears, also caused a stir when it became known she was pregnant.
For Lin Burress, who maintains a parenting blog Tell It like It Is, the Cyrus event says that line has been transgressed -- just one more instance of the inappropriate sexualization of young girls.
“An entire generation of young girls is being psychologically damaged by the onslaught of marketing tactics surrounding inappropriate “sexy” children’s fashions, toys, music, books and sexualized images in the media, and parents should be very concerned,” she wrote on her blog.
But for Soleil’s Martin, the incident “is typical of a children’s story transitioning to adulthood that their publicity becomes more adult - this is to be expected.”
At least one parental type clearly approved. Cyrus’ father, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, was at the photo session, which was conducted by the well-known celebrity photographer Annie Liebovitz.
The photos, some of which have already circulated on the internet, showed Cyrus draped over the lap of her then-boyfriend, another revealed part of her green bra, while a third from-the-back-shot, she appears topless but wrapped in a blanket.
In a statement issued over the weekend to People Magazine, Cyrus said she thought the photo shoot would be ”artistic” but after seeing them appear on the internet felt “so embarrassed."
A Disney statement complained that “a situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines.”
“I can imagine parents feeling a little more anxious but at the end of the day the kids are the ones pulling the trigger and I can’t imagine kids make a big stink about this - but time will tell,” said Peters.