Walt Disney Inc. (DIS) shares edged higher Thursday after the media giant posted stronger-than-expected second quarter earnings as it continues to absorb last year's $52.4 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox and transitions into a media streaming giant that will challenge Netflix Inc. (NFLX) in the global streaming market.
Disney said adjusted earnings for the three months ending in March, the group's fiscal second quarter, fell 13% to $1.61 per share, but beat the Street consensus forecast by 4 cents per share. Group revenues rose 3% to $14.922 billion, thanks in part to a 5% surge in sales at its theme parks division, and topped analysts' estimates of $14.53 billion.
Disney also said its Fox acquisition will likely dilute third quarter earnings by around 35 cents per share as the media groups integrate, with a further 37 cent hit from "the amortization of intangible assets and the step-up on film and TV assets".
Disney's near-term focus, however, remains fixed on the roll-out of its new streaming service, Disney+, which will launch in November and cost $6.99 per month with a target of gaining between 60 million and 90 million subscribers by 2024. That drive, however, is likely to cost around $2 billion and weigh on profits in the near-term, and cost the group $393 million over the second quarter.
"We're pleased with our results in Q2, which were impacted by our acquisition of 21st Century Fox in late March as well as our ongoing investment in our direct-to-consumer business," CEO Bob Iger told investors on a conference call late Wednesday. "But I'd like to start by mentioning the phenomenal success of Avengers: Endgame, which continues to exceed even our highest expectations."
"After delivering the biggest opening of all time, the movie has generated almost $2.3 billion in worldwide box office to date, making it the second-highest grossing film of all time, after just 2 weeks in theaters," Iger added. "And I'm happy to announce that Avengers: Endgame will be available on Disney+ on December 11, just a month after we launch the service."
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Disney shares were marked 0.1% hihger at 135.21 at the start of trading Thursday, a move that would give the Dow component a year-to-date gain of around 23%.
Disney's media revenues were essentially flat from last year at $5.5 billion, the company said, although cable revenues, which include its sports-focused ESPN network, rose 2% to $3.7 billion. Direct-to-Consumer and International revenue increased 15% to $955 million and segment operating loss increased from $188 million to $393 million.
Theme Parks, however, were the second quarter standout, with net income of $1.5 billion on revenues of $6.2 billion and profit margins rising 140 basis points as Disney continues to integrate the popularity of its media assets -- such as the Star Wars franchise -- to attract new visitors.
"The popularity of what we've been building, which I think is tied to both the quality and the scale of what we've been building, but also the fact that we've been building attractions in lands and shows that are tied to some of our best stories and our franchises, I think has created an even greater demand and more popularity, which gives us more flexibility on the pricing side," Iger said.
On the streaming front, Disney also said it plans to expand its direct-to-consumer television offering, Hulu, later this year, but noted that it can't make independent decisions given that a third of the service is owned by rival Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) .
"We're bullish about Hulu for a number of reasons, but mostly because as we see it, it's the best consumer television proposition out there because it offers linear channels that include a lot of live news and sports, in-season stacking of network programming, a lot of great original programming," Iger said. "With Comcast as basically a 33% owner, any big decisions that are made as it relates to investment or expansion would have to be done with their cooperation. And again, I think we would probably both share a bullish outlook about Hulu, but we can't do it on our own."