by Ray Keating
News/Analysis
DisneyBizJournal.com
November 9, 2018

News poured forth from The Walt Disney Company on November 8th, and it was all good for the world’s leading entertainment enterprise. But what was most interesting, or at least notable, for Disney fans and investors?

Consider the following six points:

  1. Name? Meh. Service? Vast Potential.Of course, the company announced that its new streaming service coming in late 2019 will be called Disney+. My reaction to the name: Yawn. It’s fine, I guess. More interesting is Disney CEO and Chairman Bob Iger highlighting that the service “will be very brand-centric,” indicating easy consumer access to brands like Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, Disney, National Geographic, Indiana Jones, and so on. Also, Iger reiterated his excitement for bringing in Fox IP (intellectual property) like Planet of the Apes, Avatar and Kingsman.
  2. Big Revenue and Earnings Gains.Disney outperformed expectations on both revenue and earnings for the fourth quarter 2018 and for the company’s entire fiscal 2018 year. Comparable earnings per share in the fourth quarter grew by 38 percent compared to the prior-year quarter, and for all of 2018, EPS grew by 24.2 percent versus 2017. Looking ahead, Iger stated, “We remain focused on the successful completion and integration of our 21st Century Fox acquisition and the further development of our direct-to-consumer business, including the highly anticipated launch of our Disney-branded streaming service late next year.”

  1. Parks and Movies Rock.In terms of both revenue and operating income gains, the big plusses came via parks and resorts, and studio entertainment. For all of 2018, parks and resorts revenues grew by 10 percent, and studio entertainment was up by 19 percent, while operating income expanded for parks and resorts by 18 percent, and for studio entertainment by 27 percent. Parks and resorts gains, both domestically and internationally were due to “higher guest spending and volumes.” As for studio performance, Disney noted, “The increase at Studio Entertainment was due to the exceptional performance of our theatrical releases driven by Black PantherStar Wars: The Last JediAvengers: Infinity War and Incredibles 2.”
  2. More Investment.The bulk of capital expenditures made by Disney was in its parks and resorts – namely, new attractions – which grew from $3.191 billion in fiscal year 2017 to $3.883 billion in FY2018 – a 21.7 percent increase.
  3. More Star Wars on Disney+.Officially, there are now two – yes, two! – live-action Star Wars shows coming to the streaming service. Disney announced a new show would follow the adventures of Rebel spy Cassian Andor, with Diego Luna reprising his role from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, during formative years of the Rebellion leading up to Rogue One. That, of course, comes in addition to Jon Favreau’s writing and executive producing The Mandalorian for Disney+, which will be set after the fall of the Empire but prior to the rise of the First Order.
  4. Return of Loki. And you thought Loki was really dead, didn’t you? Well, it was confirmed that a Marvel mini-series for Disney+ focused on Tom Hiddleston as Loki is moving ahead. For good measure, previous reports have noted series based on Scarlet Witch, and on the Falcon and Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes.

Disney is moving into an exciting time, adding to its parks, expanding its IP (intellectual property), and moving ahead with its own streaming services (don’t forget that Disney owns 60 percent of Hulu and Iger was open to buying the other 40 percent). While it’s been said so many times, the digital economy means that content is king. If that’s the case, it’s hard to argue against Disney being the entertainment king – barring bad decisions that undermine its own IP – especially given the synergies between movies, streaming and its parks and resorts.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels, with the two latest books being Reagan Country: A Pastor Stephen Grant Noveland Heroes and Villains: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story. He can be contacted at raykeating@keatingreports.com.