Disney Downplays Political Push

The media giant doesn't expect presidential advertising to boost TV advertising all that much.
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Things are going well, but not extraordinarily so, at


(DIS) - Get Report

owned-and-operated TV stations.

That was the takeaway from a brief chat that Walter Liss, president of ABC Owned Television Stations, had with investors at an A.G. Edwards investment conference Monday.

Liss also indicated that, based on the states in which ABC's biggest stations are located, the company wouldn't generate loads of political advertising from the presidential election. But issue-oriented advertising in one of those states, California, could generate an "enormous amount of advertising."

Disney, which is slated to report financial reports on May 12 for the fiscal second quarter ended March 31, has investors calculating the relative importance of its different divisions on a daily basis. The company's film operations struck dry wells twice in recent weeks, with the disappointing releases of the animated

Home on the Range

and the epic

The Alamo.

But the company's theme park division is showing indications of recovery, and a week ago the company raised its forecast for earnings growth from continuing operations, in the year ending Sept. 30, from 30% to more than 40%, "assuming a continuation of the favorable economic conditions and trends we're seeing."

On Monday, Disney shares rose a penny to $24.91.

Liss oversees the 10 stations in the ABC TV network that are actually owned by Disney itself, rather than by other companies who have affiliated their stations with the ABC TV network. Ninety percent of profits from Disney-owned stations come from the stations in the five biggest markets: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

Asked about the advertising environment in the quarter ending June 30, Liss said Monday, "I think we're going to make our budgets ... but it's early in the quarter."

Told of chatter that for some station operators, the value of advertising sales booked for April and May were showing high-teens percentage growth compared to last year, Liss said, "We have not seen anything that strong."

Addressing the prospects for political advertising this year, Liss said that Bush's campaign wouldn't likely be big spenders in New York, California and Texas -- markets where Disney has a total of four stations. (Disney has a station in Houston, the nation's 11th-largest TV market.)

But various propositions on the ballot in California -- most recently, one related to Indian-run casinos -- is "good for us," Liss said.