Disney’s core streaming business turns first profit since 2019 launch


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Disney’s core streaming business turned a profit for the first time since the launch of Disney+ in late 2019, achieving the milestone months earlier than expected thanks to cost-cutting and the popularity of Hulu programmes including Shogun and The Bear.

The streaming business has lost more than $11bn since its launch, but Disney has cut costs and raised prices in an aggressive push to achieve profitability. The Disney+ and Hulu streaming unit earned $47mn in its second fiscal quarter, compared with a $587mn loss a year earlier, while the total direct to consumer streaming business (which includes sports service ESPN+) narrowed its operating loss to $18mn.

“Crossing the profitability threshold early is something that we can feel very good about,” Hugh Johnston, Disney’s chief financial officer, told the Financial Times.

Disney+ would lose money in the current quarter because of Disney+ Hotstar in India, though the combined streaming business was expected to be profitable in the fourth quarter, the company said, as it forecast further improvements in streaming profitability next year.

The streaming news came as Disney reported a net loss of $20mn — owing largely to goodwill impairments — on $22.1bn in revenue in the quarter to the end of March. This compares with net income of $1.3bn on $21.8bn in the same period a year ago.

Excluding those impairments, Disney’s adjusted earnings of $1.21 a share were up 30 per cent from a year ago and topped the $1.10 Wall Street had expected. The company also raised its adjusted earnings target for the full year.

Bob Iger, chief executive, said the strong results were due in large part to its experiences division, where theme parks outside the US, including Shanghai Disney, performed well. “We are turbocharging growth in our experiences business with a number of near- and long-term strategic investments,” he said.

The earnings report was the first since Iger fended off a proxy challenge from Trian Partners’ Nelson Peltz, who was seeking two seats on the board. Iger said the latest results were proof that the “turnaround and growth initiatives we set in position last year have continued to yield positive results”.

Iger’s plan to reinvigorate the company’s film studios will be put to the test with upcoming releases including Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes this month, Pixar’s Inside Out 2 in June and Marvel’s Deadpool & Wolverine in July.

Disney shares were down almost 6 per cent in pre-market trading on Tuesday.

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