Sometimes a creator or company will strike gold. A work (film, novel, etc) may spawn sequels, adaptations to other media, and a bonanza of merchandise. Usually, it'll take place in its own distinct universe, the author having significant autonomy, or the time and place keeping it off limit for crossovers, like Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.
However, sometimes the creator or company will try to replicate its own success, and come up with creations in similar genres. The similarities are noted and sooner or later the separate creations wind up crossing over with each other—either to pool resources that are individually flagging in interest, or just to enjoy the benefits of a crossover. This new Shared Universe is a pretty perfect fit, and eventually it's seen as one giant franchise. However, at some point they may want to reboot only one piece of their mega-franchise, or adapt the simplest, most distilled aspect as it was originally envisioned. Luckily, these properties started out as their own franchise, so they can certainly stand on their own. But what you have is a modular franchise—full of properties that can be self-sustaining on their own, but also easily and even organically marketed as a unit.
See also Massive Multiplayer Crossover.
- Disney's works as a whole can kind of be considered one giant uber franchise, with sizable subfranchises for the Disney Animated Canon and Pixar's films, plus whatever else they own (like live-action films or the Disney Theme Parks) that they feel like throwing in. Disney now also owns The Muppets, Marvel Comics, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones, making them sub-franchises to the Disney brand.
- And speaking of Marvel, the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings the Avengers corner of the Marvel U to movies, having sub-franchises for Iron Man, The Mighty Thor, Captain America and Guardians of the Galaxy, and (so far) one-off films for other heroes. And as they branch out into television and Netflix, it's not even restricted to film, either.
- The Cloverfield franchise is made up of (so far) three films and a tie-in manga, Cloverfield/Kishin, that are connected by an intricate Alternate Reality Game that serves as both the Viral Marketing for the series and most of the World Building. While the films are otherwise standalone (beyond all of them having the word "Cloverfield" in the title), most of the connections between them are revealed in various websites detailing the activities of corporations and institutions within their Shared Universe. Furthermore, while it's unconfirmed, various fan theories have attempted to canon-weld the series with other works produced by J. J. Abrams, particularly the TV shows Alias and Lost and the film Super 8.
- Superman and Batman are individually massive cultural icons. They're also members of the Justice League, which consists of all of DC Comic's other major superheroes—including ones like Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash or Supergirl who are popular in their own right. So you may see these characters playing out individually, or as a combo of the company's superhero line.
- Marvel Comics is a little more complex. They will often place things under the "Marvel Super-Heroes" banner. But unlike DC's stable, they don't always play well together, and many of their most popular characters aren't even major players in the company's Justice League analogue, The Avengers. Thus, for the purposes of editors, movie franchises or toys, they may divide the Marvel Universe into different "corners", with Spider-Man and the X-Men most often being their own distinct franchises. However, this may be changing, with both Spidey and Wolverine now included as Avenger members.
- The Disney Mouse and Duck Comics follow the same basic rule as the Disney Animated Canon (see below), with all the characters inhabiting the same universe — but Donald Duck and his family primarily stay in the Disney Ducks Comic Universe, while Mickey Mouse and his friends have the Mickey Mouse Comic Universe, with the occasional crossover. There are also comic stories that are clearly part of the same universe but don't clearly take place with either Mice or Ducks — such as Chip 'n Dale's solo comics.
- Brian Michael Bendis' Jinx and Goldfish don't appear to be part of a superhero universe, but since the stories were published by Image Comics, and Jinx crosses over with the Spawn spin-off Sam and Twitch, the stories could take place in the Image universe.
- Beginning with Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Universal Pictures started pitting many of their monsters against each other, to the point that they formed, for the most part, one cohesive universe with most of the action taking place in an Eastern German-ish Überwald setting. For years after, things like video collections, cartoons, and even postage stamps would sport a Universal Monsters logo featuring Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Bride of Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. In 1999, Stephen Sommers remade The Mummy, and upon its success combined most of the gothic monsters for 2004's Van Helsing, in the hopes of going through Universal's entire stable of beasties. It didn't work out, and neither did Universal's attempt to give another shot to The Wolf Man. Another relaunch was attempted with Dracula Untold and The Mummy (2017), with the latter explicitly intended to kickstart a full Universal cinematic universe, the Dark Universe. Unfortunately for Universal, though, The Mummy appears to have put the kibosh on that plan. The Mummy was released to poor reviews and didn't do too well at the box office, with the use of the "Dark Universe" logo before anyone cared about the Dark Universe being met with particular derision, and with the departure of producers Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan, plus the plug being pulled on Bride of Frankenstein preproduction, that appears to be more or less that for the Dark Universe for the time being.
- Godzilla. Obviously, the Big G is the star of the line, but Mothra is important enough for her own subseries, and pretty much anything by Toho can be worked into a Godzilla film. And, of course, the big lizard himself can be crossed over with just about anything.
- One of the more interesting examples at the Disney Theme Parks is the Journey into Imagination pavilion at Epcot (Florida). After the 3-D movie Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, a follow-up to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, proved a hit there in 1994, the pavilion was completely rethemed to its "Imagination Institute" setting at decade's end. In the process, it became a hub for live-action Disney science-related characters via Easter eggs or more obvious references. The works thus welded are the Honey films, Flubber, the Merlin Jones films from The '60s, and the Dexter Riley films from The '70s... plus the original incarnation of the pavilion via the animated/Audio-Animatronic dragon Figment (a friendly Trickster figure in this incarnation, rather than a Sidekick).
- The DC Extended Universe is DC Comics and Warner Bros.' response to Marvel and Disney's success with their film universe (see "Multimedia" below). While their TV shows (unlike Marvel's) remain separate from it, so far it has grown to encompass Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Suicide Squad, with films in the works for Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg, as well as a film adaptation of the Justice League of America.
- Nintendo has become more active in presenting its characters as a combined franchise. The Super Smash Bros. series is first and foremost, but other pan-Nintendo games include Nintendo Land and NES Remix.
- Most animation companies will eventually have all the characters from their shorts shown to exist in one large community.
- Warner Bros. places the Looney Tunes characters in the same universe along with the characters from Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Freakazoid! and Histeria!.
- Hanna-Barbera once pooled them all for Laff-A-Lympics. As both HB and Cartoon Network were under the same banner, Cartoon Cartoons might also fit - Dynomutt Dog Wonder appeared in Dexter's Laboratory, and Johnny Bravo met among others Scooby-Doo. (Dexters's characters also cameod in many other Cartoon shows, specially The Powerpuff Girls)
- The Disney Princess brand, which is primarily focused on the royal heroines of fairy/folktale-derived films from the Disney Animated Canon. While no canon work has presented the heroines together (a rejected concept for the "Pomp and Circumstance" segment in Fantasia 2000 would have done so), various direct-to-video productions, theme park shows, CDs, the live-action series Once Upon a Time, and so forth have.
- Professional teams are considered franchises in their own right, but the entire league its a brand name it will try to exploit—using the imagery of its various teams.
- Football goes one step further, since there's both a national league and continental confederation for any given team. So, for example, Real Madrid is part of the branding of both Spain's La Liga and UEFA's Champions League.