This article originally appeared on Real Money on Nov. 14, 2016.
But the fact that so many people are taking those rumors seriously, perhaps, says something about how concerns have grown about the threat posed by online video to Disney's media empire. And that Disney needs to make a big move to protect its flank.
Netflix rose 4% on Oct. 3 after vague rumors emerged that Disney is looking to buy the streaming company. The chatter died down for a while, but flared up again on Monday, thanks to a TechCrunch column making the case for a deal. The column didn't cite any sources indicating Disney and Netflix are in talks, but simply argued why it's in the companies' interests to merge.
A look at Disney's fiscal fourth-quarter (from September) results shine a light on why the company could be pressured to shake things up. The company's media networks division, which produced nearly half of its profits in fiscal 2016, saw revenue fall 3% annually to $5.7 billion. That was a reversal from the 2% growth posted in fiscal Q3; never mind the 12% growth seen in the year-ago period. The division's operating income fell 8% to $1.7 billion.
While media networks' broadcasting segment, responsible for ABC, saw revenue rise 8% to $1.7 billion and operating profit rise 37% to $224 million, its cable networks segment, which oversees ESPN and the Disney Channels, among others, saw revenue drop 7% to $4 billion and operating profit drop 13% to $1.4 billion. Lower affiliate fee revenue from pay-TV providers weighed, as did lower ad revenue and higher production costs at ESPN.