Image: The Walt Disney headquarters in Burbank, California December 18, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer
By Lisa Richwine and Rishika Sadam
(Reuters) – Walt Disney Co, an investor favorite for consistently beating Wall Street earnings targets, reported a rare miss on Tuesday as advertising and subscriptions declined at sports channel ESPN and theme park revenue came in weaker than expected.
The home of Mickey Mouse got a boost from animated hit film “Zootopia” but it announced an exit from the console video game business as it dropped the Infinity title it launched less than three years ago.
Shares of the world’s best-known entertainment company fell more than 5 percent in extended trading.
Disney and other media companies have been hit by the trend of “cord-cutting” as younger viewers opt for streaming services over cable and satellite TV channels. Investors are particularly focused on how ESPN, one of the strongest cable brands, weathers the storm.
“Cable networks continue to face meaningful headwinds and Disney has yet to really answer how they are going to restore growth,” BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield said.
Excluding some items, Disney earned $1.36 per share, missing analyst average expectation of $1.40 per share. Revenue rose to $12.97 billion from $12.46 billion, below the Wall Street target of $13.19 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Chief Executive Bob Iger told analysts he does not “currently have any plans” to stay at Disney beyond his contract’s expiration in June 2018.
The company’s board is searching for Iger’s successor after the unexpected departure of Chief Operating Officer Tom Staggs. Some industry analysts believe Iger could be asked to stay longer.
For the quarter that ended April 2, revenue missed expectations at cable networks, theme parks and consumer product divisions, according to data from FactSet StreetAccount.
Revenue in Disney’s cable networks business fell 1.86 percent to $3.96 billion.
Operating income in the division rose 12.34 percent, mainly due to lower programing costs and higher fees from pay TV distributors.
ESPN subscriptions fell. Ad revenue also dropped, which Disney attributed to a change in timing of college football playoff games.
Disney took a $147 million charge for abandoning its Infinity game. The company will focus on licensing its characters for video games rather than publishing its own titles, Iger said.
Studio revenue for the quarter increased 22 percent to $2.1 billion, powered by the box-office success of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and animated movie “Zootopia”, which has grossed nearly $1 billion worldwide.
Revenue in the company’s theme park business rose 4.5 percent to $3.9 billion. Attendance was “weaker than expected, a meaningful surprise for investors,” analyst Greenfield said. Higher pre-opening expenses for its Shanghai theme park, which opens next month, also dragged down the unit’s results, Disney said.
Net income attributable to the company rose to $2.14 billion, or $1.30 per share, in the second quarter ended April 2, from $2.11 billion, or $1.23 per share, a year earlier.
(Reporting by Rishika Sadam in Bengaluru, Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles and Peter Henderson in San Francisco; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Bill Rigby)
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