Disney Posts Surprise Profit In Streaming, Raises Earnings Forecast | Old North State Wealth News
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Disney posts surprise profit in streaming, raises earnings forecast

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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Walt Disney’s streaming entertainment unit posted its first profit on Tuesday, two quarters ahead of schedule, and the media company raised its annual earnings per share outlook as it said turnaround efforts were yielding results.

Shares of the company were down 1.4% in premarket trading.

Disney now expects adjusted earnings per share to rise by 25% this fiscal year, the company said, up from the 20% it previously forecast. It attributed the change to strong results at theme parks and improvements in the streaming business.

The direct-to-consumer entertainment division – which includes the Disney+ and Hulu streaming services – reported operating income of $47 million from January through March.

Disney had promised Wall Street that the streaming operation would become profitable by September. The division had been losing money since Disney+ debuted in 2019 in the company’s major push to compete with Netflix.

“Our strong performance this past quarter demonstrates we have turned the corner and entered a new era for our company,” Chief Executive Bob Iger, who defeated board challenges from activist investors last month, said in a statement.

“The steps we are taking today lend themselves to solidifying Disney’s place as the preeminent creator of global content,” Iger added.

Like other media companies, Disney has been trying to adapt to consumer migration from cable television to streaming entertainment.

Iger, who came out of retirement to revamp Disney in November 2022, instituted cost cuts that are expected to reach at least $7.5 billion by the end of September. He also unveiled a 10-year, $60 billion investment in theme parks and announced plans for a stand-alone ESPN streaming app, among other efforts.

The earlier-than-expected profit from streaming entertainment was driven by aggressive cost management, Chief Financial Officer Hugh Johnston said in an interview. A year ago, the streaming unit lost $587 million.

Disney+ added more than 6 million customers during the quarter, and average revenue per user rose 44 cents, outside of India. Disney offers a lower-priced plan in India that it counts separately.

Because of costs to stream cricket, streaming entertainment will likely report a loss for the current quarter but swing back to a profit the following period, Johnston said.

Disney also reports results for a combined streaming unit, including ESPN+. The combined unit should generate a fiscal fourth-quarter profit and become a “meaningful future growth driver for the company, with further improvements in profitability for fiscal 2025,” Disney said in its earnings statement.

For January through March, the combined streaming business with ESPN+ lost $18 million.

During that time, the Mouse House posted diluted earnings per share, excluding certain items, of $1.21, ahead of analysts’ consensus estimate of $1.10, according to LSEG data. Quarterly revenue rose to $22.1 billion, in line with analyst forecasts.

The company’s experiences division, which includes the Disney theme parks around the world, reported operating income of $2.3 billion, a 12% increase from a year earlier.

At Disney’s entertainment segment, the home of the traditional TV business, streaming and film, operating income rose 72% from a year earlier to $781 million.

The sports unit that includes ESPN saw operating income decline by 2% to $778 million, which it attributed to the timing of college football playoff games.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru and Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Henderson, Matthew Lewis and Christopher Cushing)

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