Disney tops earnings estimates ahead of streaming launch

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SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 8, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Walt Disney Co. on Thursday reported
better-than-expected quarterly results, fueled by the release of blockbuster
films “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” as it prepared for its new streaming
television service.

Disney profit in the recently ended quarter was $1.05 billion, down from
$2.3 billion a year ago, on revenue that grew 34 percent to $19.1 billion.

The slump in profits came as Disney absorbed key film and television
operations of 21st Century Fox and geared up for its launch of the streaming
service Disney+ that aims to compete globally against Netflix and others.

“We’ve spent the last few years completely transforming The Walt Disney
Company to focus the resources and immense creativity across the entire
company on delivering an extraordinary direct-to-consumer experience,” said
Disney chief executive Robert Iger.

“We’re excited for the launch of Disney+ on November 12.”

Iger said the company reached a deal for the service to be on Amazon’s Fire
TV platform, the latest distribution agreement for Disney+.

Disney shares were up more than five percent in after-market trading
following release of the earnings figures.

– ‘Lion King’ roars –

Revenues in the past quarter were boosted by a 52 percent rise in Disney’s
studio operations with box office hits “The Lion King,” “Toy Story 4” and
“Aladdin” fueling gains.

The entertainment giant expects revenue in the current quarter to be
boosted by the forthcoming release of a sequel to “Frozen” and the final
installment of the “Star Wars” film saga.

It will thereafter take a “hiatus” from “Star Wars” box office films but
has an array of spin-off shows planned exclusively for its streaming service.

Disney has become the biggest Hollywood player with the acquisition of
studio and TV assets from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

However, integrating Fox into Disney has cost more than expected and the
newly added studios have brought in less money than hoped.

Disney saw smaller revenue gains in its cable and broadcasting operations
as well as its theme park division.

Iger would not disclose details of pre-sales of Disney+ subscriptions, but
said the price — $6.99 monthly — has met with “great enthusiasm” by
consumers.

The Disney+ online streaming service will debut in the United States,
Canada and the Netherlands before gradually expanding internationally in
Europe then rolling out worldwide.

Its films and TV shows will be available, along with the library it
acquired from 21st Century Fox. That includes the “Star Wars” and Marvel
superhero franchises and ABC television content.

Disney+ will also combine offerings from powerhouse brands including Pixar,
with content from Hulu and sports network ESPN.

– Apple rolling –

Apple last week launched a streaming television service that features a
budding library of original shows starring big-name celebrities, aimed at
winning over its gadget lovers at home and on the go.

The Apple TV+ on-demand streaming service launched in more than 100
countries at $4.99 per month.

Original Apple TV+ shows have so far been met with lukewarm early reviews,
but the low subscription price and an offer of year-long memberships free
with purchase of the company’s devices was expected to encourage viewers to
tune in.

Netflix, meanwhile, has budgeted $15 billion this year for original shows,
on top of the billions it has devoted to exclusive productions in recent
years.

Amazon, which has deep pockets thanks to its e-commerce and cloud services,
has also poured cash into original shows for its Prime Video service.

This sets up a potential spending war among the major streaming players,
according to analysts.

Even more competition looms on the horizon, with AT&T’s Warner Media to
launch its “HBO Max” in early 2020 after reclaiming the rights from Netflix
to stream its popular television comedy “Friends.”

NBCUniversal’s Peacock service is also launching next year.

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