Disney Earnings Preview: What to Watch

November 8, 2018

By Chloe Aiello

Disney's new streaming service and its acquisition of Fox assets will be the main fixation when the entertainment giant reports earnings and revenue after market close on Thursday.

Analysts are estimating earnings per share of $1.34 on about $13.73 billion in revenue for Disney's ($DISN) quarter. If the House of Mouse makes the grade, that would mean a 25.2 percent increase in earnings per share and a 7.4 percent boost in revenue since last year.

"There is something almost of a script right now with Disney earnings, where you have a pretty solid quarter out of the theme parks and resort segment, pretty solid quarter out of studios ー we saw Marvel's 'Ant-Man and the Wasp' as their big summer blockbuster ー and then maybe a more muted performance out of media networks, which houses its all-important cable and broadcast and ESPN network," Elaine Low, a reporter for Investor's Business Daily, told Cheddar on Thursday.

Beyond the numbers, investors will be looking for updates on the launch of Disney's dedicated streaming service, progress on the ESPN over-the-top service Disney launched in April, and what newly-acquired Twenty-First Century Fox ($FOXA) assets might mean for the media conglomerate.

"I think we should expect to hear quite a bit of discussion about how the new ESPN+ streaming platform is doing. And what to expect when the new Disney branded streaming platform launches late next year," Low said.

A growing number of cord-cutters have had disastrous effects on Disney’s all-important cable division. But it's preparing to clap back with the roll out of a dedicated Disney streaming service at the end of 2019.

The big question, Low said, is to what extent the streaming service will dominate the market after its launch in late 2019.

But it won't be Disney's first taste of over-the-top services. It's been about six months since Disney rolled out ESPN+ to consumers. The service, which goes hand-in-hand with the ESPN app, targets cord-cutters and cord-nevers by delivering exclusive live programming to subscribers.

Investors "are hoping to see some sort of indication that that is picking up steam and acting as something of a supplemental subscriber driver, where ESPN is losing subscribers," Low said ー but since the company didn't disclose subscriber figures last quarter, investors shouldn't necessarily expect them this time around.

On Tuesday, Disney secured conditional approval from the European Union for its acquisition of select Twenty-First Century Fox assets, including Fox's stake in Hulu, National Geographic, and more than 300 international channels. Investors will likely expect some updates on the acquisition Thursday, particularly as it pertains to Hulu, in which Disney will hold a 60 percent stake after the acquisition.

"[CEO Bob] Iger did not rule out the possibility of bundling ESPN+, Hulu and the Disney branded platform on the last quarterly call. We'll see if he has any more thoughts on bundling this time around today," Low said.