- Disney is focusing on quickly building its streaming service to challenge Netflix as audiences move away from cable TV;
- The company’s popular theme parks remain in recovery mode with attendance limits due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Walt Disney Co‘s streaming growth fell short of Wall Street estimates on Thursday after seeing strong consumer demand early in the pandemic, while the company’s quarterly profit-topped forecasts. Disney Plus reached a total of 103.6 million customers as of early April. Two Marvel superhero series, WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, debuted during the quarter. Analysts had projected 109.3 million, according to FactSet.
Disney is focusing on quickly building its streaming service to challenge Netflix as audiences move away from cable TV. The company’s popular theme parks remain in recovery mode with attendance limits due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
CEO Robert Chapek said that movie and television shows were resuming normal production, and new offerings would help spur subscriber growth across Disney Plus, ESPN Plus, Hulu, and Hotstar.
The average monthly revenue per paid subscriber for Disney Plus decreased from $5.63 to $3.99 due to the launch of Disney Plus Hotstar – an on-demand video streaming service owned by Star India, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company India – in overseas markets.
Overall revenue fell 13% to $15.61 billion in the second quarter ended April 3, compared with analysts’ estimate of $15.87 billion, according to Refinitiv. Net income from continuing operations rose to $912 million, or 50 cents per share, in the second quarter from $468 million, or 26 cents per share, from a year earlier.
Disney reached a renewal deal through 2028 with Major League Baseball with 30 exclusive regular-season games. The deal includes an option to simulcast all live MLB coverage for ESPN networks on ESPN Plus. On a conference call with analysts, Chapek said that the company’s plans for sports streaming are “aggressive,” with the expansion of its “unrivaled portfolio of multiyear sports rights deals for ESPN and ESPN Plus,” and that the executives have been talking a lot about “flexibility” since things are about to change. He stressed to analysts that there is no reason for doubting the company’s boldness in doing that – shift from linear to streaming platforms – when the time comes, mainly through ESPN Plus or “whatever platform follows ESPN Plus.”
ESPN Plus now has 13.8 million subscribers in the U.S., a 75% growth compared to late March 2020. Hulu has 37.8 million subscribers through its SVOD plan, an 31% increase over last year.
Shares of Disney fell 3.7% in after-hours trading. Adjusted earnings-per-share came in at 79 cents for January through April 3, Disney said. Analysts had expected 27 cents, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.