Disney (DIS) unveiled first quarter 2022 results that beat expectations after the bell on Wednesday. Shares jumped as much as 9% after the report.
New membership additions for the company’s two-year-old Disney+ streaming service surpassed analysts’ expectations. The metric was in focus as a return to in-person activities had some concerned over future growth for the direct-to-consumer video service, which benefitted from the height of stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Turnout at Disney’s lucrative parks and resorts also climbed, with revenue from the entertainment giant’s parks, experience and products business hitting $7.23 billion, more than double from a year before.
Here are the main metrics in Disney’s report compared to Bloomberg consensus estimates:
Revenue: $21.82 billion vs. $20.8 billion expected
Adjusted earnings per share: $1.06 vs. 61 cents expected
Disney+ new subscribers totaled 11.8 million, sharply topping analyst estimates. According to Bloomberg consensus data, Disney was expected to see Disney+ streaming subscribers grow by about 7 million on a quarter-over-quarter basis, a jump from 2.1 million new members brought on in the prior quarter.
The company had 129.8 million paid subscribers at the end of 2021 and reiterated its target to bring on 230 million and 260 million subscribers in total to the service by the end of fiscal 2024.
Many stock-watchers worried about whether the all-important facet of Disney’s business can continue to churn out a profit as swaths of subscribers who signed up for Disney+ during lockdowns go back to regular routines, but analysts anticipated the lineup of new video content would help boost subscriber numbers.
A falloff in consumers signing up for streaming services had impacted Disney’s competitors on the heels of a broader downturn for “stay-at-home” companies. Netflix, the leading U.S.-based internet streaming platform, accumulated 8.3 million subscribers in the three-month period ended Dec. 31, below its own expectations of 8.5 million subscriber additions. The company also forecasted a lower-than-expected net add of 2.5 million subscribers in Q1 2022.
The outlook sent Netflix cratering and dampened investor sentiment around how other streaming giants, including Disney+, may fare. Shares of Disney dropped in empathy after Netflix’s disappointing results as investors worried about stagnant growth for all streaming platforms. Disney stock had fallen by as much as 8% year-to-date, underperforming the S&P 500.
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Going into the earnings results, analysts were optimistic that Disney+ would fare better than the previous quarter, thanks to a boost from new content releases, including “The Beatles: Get Back” documentary, which alone is estimated to have prompted 200,000 households to subscribe to the platform, per subscription-analytics firm Antenna. Wall Street analysts also anticipated the Star Wars bounty hunter Boba Fett and Marvel superhero Hawkeye would help power subscriber growth.
“The difference here is that Disney has a much bigger trove of franchises to draw from,” CFRA Research analyst Tuna Amobi told Yahoo Finance Live.
Disney joined streaming peers in hiking prices for its services as it invests heavily in the creation of new original content for the platform, which generally has helped bolster sign-ups. The company raised prices for its Disney+ streaming services one year ago to $8 a month, while Hulu, majority owned by Disney, increased the price of its live TV subscription services in December by $5 a month to $70 a month. The fee includes Disney+ and ESPN+, which alone costs $7 a month.
In Netflix’s earnings call on Jan. 20, Chief Operating Officer Greg Peters said that “customers are willing to pay for great entertainment,” citing Disney+ and other streaming services as “endorsements” of that theory and arguing that subscribers have typically been willing to allot more for subscription fees if it means better storytelling and more variety.
“A 2H re-acceleration in Disney+ streaming subscriptions, a steady ramp-up at the parks unit and a best-in-class film studio will reinvigorate the narrative, we believe, and raise confidence in Disney’s long-term success,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Geetha Ranganathan and Kevin Near in a note. “A 20% drop in the stock price over the past six months mainly reflects fears about Disney’s ability to hit its fiscal 2024 subscriber goals.”
A street performer, masked for COVID protocol, plays violin as a part of the Merry Menagerie troupe at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. Walt Disney World’s four Florida theme parks filled to near-capacity for the New Year’s Eve holiday, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. As of Thursday afternoon, Animal Kingdom was the only park showing available reservations for ticket holders, Disney resort guests and annual passholders for New Year’s Eve, Jan. 31. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
While reopenings may have put a damper on streaming activity, the return to face-to-face activity boded well for Disney’s other key business: theme parks.
“Disney has a huge advantage over Netflix in that it can monetize its content in multiple ways, whereas Netflix only has one way to monetize content,” David Trainer, CEO of New Constructs, wrote in a recent research note. “With Disney, in addition to paying subscribers, it can monetize its content through movies, merchandise and theme parks and already has the infrastructure in place to do this successfully.”
At $7.23 billion, sales for Disney’s parks, experiences and consumer business neared the pre-pandemic revenue total of $7.6 billion in the final quarter of 2019.
Alexandra Semenova is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alexandraandnyc