Disney earnings: Coronavirus pandemic batters business, as expected

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Disney reported fiscal second-quarter earnings on Tuesday, suffering a significant drop to its bottom line as the novel coronavirus pandemic battered many of its businesses.

Earnings per share came in at $0.60—down $1.01, or 63% from a year earlier. Wall Street analysts had estimated a figure of $0.83, a decline of 48% from the year earlier, according to consensus estimates from Zacks Investment Research. Revenues meanwhile were up to $18.01 billion, up from $14.92 billion a year earlier—an increase of 21%. That number was in line with consensus expectations of $18.03 billion.

Disney’s Parks, Experiences, and Product segment was hit particularly hard by the pandemic. The division, which handles the likes of theme parks, retail stores, and cruise lines, generated $639 million of operating income in the second quarter. That’s down from $1.5 billion a year earlier, a 58% decline. Disney estimated COVID-19 had a $1 billion impact on the segment’s total operating income, mostly due to lost revenues from closures. Across the entire company, Disney estimated the coronavirus had an impact of $1.4 billion to operating income in the second quarter, a 37% decline from a year ago.

“Disney’s bottom-line number has missed the consensus estimate by a big margin, evidence that the company’s parks and media businesses are taking a big hit from the coronavirus-triggered closures,” said Haris Anwar, a senior analyst at Investing.com. “It’s very difficult to see that segment, which accounts for 70% of Disney’s revenues, coming back to normality any time soon. This new reality will continue to hurt Disney franchises, at least in the next 12 months, keeping its share price down.”

The results marked the first time Disney CEO Bob Chapek reported quarterly earnings since taking over from Bob Iger in late February. Iger remains at Disney in the position of executive chairman, handling the company’s creative endeavors. About three weeks into Chapek’s tenure, in mid-March, Disney began closing its theme parks as lockdown measures intensified. Disney’s fiscal second quarter ended on March 31, meaning the earnings results reflect only about two weeks of significant coronavirus disruptions.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has had an appreciable financial impact on a number of our businesses, we are confident in our ability to withstand this disruption and emerge from it in a strong position,” Chapek said in a statement. “Disney has repeatedly shown that it is exceptionally resilient, bolstered by the quality of our storytelling and the strong affinity consumers have for our brands, which is evident in the extraordinary response to Disney+ since its launch last November.”

Disney’s direct-to-consumer business was a bright spot for the company as consumers increasingly look to streaming entertainment at home. All three of its streaming services saw paid subscriber growth in the second quarter. At the end of the quarter, March 31, Disney+ had 33.5 million subscribers—but on April 8 the company announced the service had surpassed 50 million subscribers, suggesting accelerated growth (though 8 million in India were automatically signed up through the over-the-top streaming service Hotstar).

ESPN+, meanwhile, is up to 7.9 million subscribers, up from 6.6 million at the end of the first quarter, and 2.2 million a year earlier. Hulu increased to 32.1 million total subscribers, up from 30.4 million the previous quarter and 25.2 million last year.

“Disney’s significant investment in streaming is a bright spot for the company that could help it mitigate some of its shortfalls, but it alone can’t propel the company past all of this adversity. Disney+ quickly amassed an impressive number of subscribers, but its impact on the broader company is limited as long as theaters and theme parks stay closed,” said eMarketer analyst Ross Benes. “This is because the streaming service, like so many other Disney products, generates the most revenue when it can be used to cross-market other company properties.”

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