NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Shares of Disney (DIS) were advancing in late afternoon trading on Friday, after CEO Bob Iger said that he wasn't worried about the deceleration of its ESPN sports channel subscriber growth on CNBC earlier today. The entertainment company has some investors worried after Nielsen reported that ESPN had lost 621,000 subscribers in October.
"We feel really good about ESPN," Iger said in the interview. "We're dealing with some near-term issues on the sub-side. Eyes wide open on that. Not trying to hide anything. But we think long-term prospects for ESPN are just fine."
Earlier today, Pivotal Research Group senior research analyst Brian Wieser cut Disney's stock to a "hold" rating from a "buy" rating and lowered its price target to $102 from $108. He joined CNBC's "Power Lunch" on Friday afternoon to talk about his decision.
The call was based on valuation as the company forecast more negatives for the next quarter and full year than Wieser had anticipated. Near-term headwinds for the company include Hurricane Matthew's effect on its parks in Florida, as well as bad advertising conditions for ESPN.
The dispute between Disney and Nielsen around the ESPN numbers is "very laughable" because the difference between the "scale of the difference" between what Disney would say the subscriber number is and what Nielsen said it was is probably not very big, he noted. Disney did not provide "particularly specific" numbers to compare with Nielsen's report.
"It's never been the case that we took the negative 3% at face value necessarily from Nielsen, but it was not going to be that far from it either and it sounds like it probably is negative, too. Discovery (DISCA) said that they are negative 2% year over year as well. Viacom (VIAB) is down about that much. So it's kind of a silly dispute," Wieser said.
After Thursday's closing bell, the company reported a top and bottom line miss for the 2016 fourth quarter. On the conference call, Iger said the company had taken a "more bullish position on the future of ESPN's sub base."
Separately, TheStreet Ratings objectively rated this stock according to its "risk-adjusted" total return prospect over a 12-month investment horizon. Not based on the news in any given day, the rating may differ from Jim Cramer's view or that of this articles's author.
TheStreet Ratings team rates Disney as a Buy with a ratings score of B. This is driven by a number of strengths, which the team believes should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks the team covers.
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