After Tuesday's market close, Disney reported adjusted earnings of $1.55 per share, beating analysts' estimates of $1.49 per share. However, revenue came in at $14.78 billion, which fell short of Wall Street's projected $15.27 billion.
Shares of Disney were climbing 1.2% to $110.31 on Wednesday morning.
ESPN has suffered from continued subscriber losses as more customers have opted to cut the cord in favor of over-the-top content platforms, but the results indicated that Disney has been able to hold off some of those losses by being able to charge pay-TV providers higher affiliate fees for the sports network.
Another point of focus was CEO Bob Iger's comments on his nearly 12-year tenure at the company. A report from the Wall Street Journal indicated that Iger may decide to extend his contract beyond the previously announced retirement date of June 2018.
On the earnings call, Iger said he would entertain the idea of staying on until Disney chooses his successor "if it's in the best interest of the company."
TheStreet's Jim Cramer, co-manager of the Action Alerts PLUS portfolio, wrote in a recent post that Iger's comments on the call helped underline the fact that Disney is "the de-risked entertainment company of all time," with media content and theme parks virtually insulating the company from being destroyed.
Following the results, analysts remained largely bullish on Disney shares, dialing back on their previous concerns about ESPN. Here's what they had to say about the quarter:
Steven Cahall, RBC Capital Markets (Outperform, $130 Price Target)
"More important to the stock near-term is that new vMPVD platforms like AT&T's (T - Get Report) DirecTV Now are adding subs not yet counted by Nielsen. But perhaps even more incremental is that Disney indicated there are yet unnamed vMVPDs to come, as it has signed with Hulu, 'another entity that has yet to be announced' (likely Alphabet's (GOOGL - Get Report) Google Unplugged), and is 'in discussions with others.' These 'others' confirm our suspicion that tech and telco are likely heading down this path as they see virtual cable as a customer acquisition tool."
Omar Sheikh, Credit Suisse (Outperform ($125 PT)
"Some soft spots but enough for the bulls. Disney's Q1 earnings included some weak spots, principally in Consumer Products, and management confirmed that growth trends in fiscal 2017 will be soft. But investor focus will likely remain on a re-acceleration of growth across the group in 2018 and beyond -- this inflection looks on track..."
Daniel Salmon, BMO Capital Markets (Underperform, $88 PT)
"We thought the most notable comment was that CEO Iger is willing to stay on past his planned June 2018 retirement if he and the Board feel it is in the best interests of the company. Though Media Nets revenue was light, it was mostly timing issues, and we see nothing materially new for our cautious fundamental view on ESPN (Media Nets [operating income] fine, 5% ahead of our estimate)."
Drew Borst, Goldman Sachs (Buy, PT increased to $138 from $133)
"In the face of a difficult comps from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and headwinds from timing issues (e.g., college football playoff, winter holiday) and nonrecurring items (e.g., Hurricane Matthew, lapping Disneyland's 60th Anniversary), F1Q [operating income] declined by only 7% year-over-year and beat consensus by 4%. The commentary from the call reinforced our Buy thesis..."
Jeffery Logsdon, JBL Advisors (Outperform, $124 PT)
"Those who had doubts, fears, anxiety, dread, etc. over the lack of an identified successor as Disney's CEO (whether a popular individual known broadly, inside, outside, etc.) as a valuation driver for Disney's stock have the new chatter (and non-denial!) that perhaps Bob Iger may stay a little longer. Great, what's the hurry to replace Mr. Iger. We believe few are likely in possession of the particulars about the Board of Director's perspective about a successor to the current CEO and any individual that may or may not be the favorite (is this the Disney Derby?)."
Tony Wible, Drexel Hamilton (Hold, $109 PT)
"An aggressive buyback, lower taxes, cost controls, and amazing studio margins contributed to a $0.05 EPS beat. While the FY18 studio prospects and a forthcoming OTT product look promising, we remain concerned about incremental disruption in the TV business as digital content is added to traditional bundles."
Anthony DiClemente, Nomura (Buy, PT increased to $120 from $110)
"Despite impact of the winter holiday timing and hurricane Matthew, Parks delivered yet another robust quarter of [operating income] growth (+13% year-over-year), well ahead of our +1% estimate. Longer term, we believe the Park has runway for pricing power and attendance growth, particularly given new park extensions like Animal Kingdom's Pandora this summer."
Brian Weiser, Pivotal Research (Sell, $85 PT)
"On balance, the quarter had many positive elements and some negative ones, with longer-term expectations generally unchanged. Over time, we think cable networks owned by Disney - especially including ESPN - will continue to lose subscribers (despite increasing availability of VMVPDs and direct-to-consumer services given the expense for the network). Long-term trends for advertising remain tepid, especially for a network group likely to lose more subscribers than the industry's average."
Vijay Jayant, Evercore ISI (Buy, $120 PT)
"Disney reported somewhat messy F1Q17 results due to various timing and one-time items...However, we think that many of the company's FY2017 challenges have been well-telegraphed, and we like the company's set-up from macro and fundamental standpoints looking into 2H17 and beyond. Expectations have been tempered for ESPN...but the future appears manageable as new virtual MVPD platforms have confirmed the network's importance in even the 'skinniest' of bundles."
Alexia Quadrani, J.P. Morgan (Overweight, $124 PT)
"We knew this quarter had tough comparisons across the board with last year's record The Force Awakens at the Studio, a difficult Star Wars/Frozen merchandise licensing and Star Wars Battlefront game comparison at Consumer Products, the shift of the New Year's holiday week out of the quarter at Parks, and the shift of three of the New Year's Six Bowl Games out of the quarter at Cable."