Disney (NYSE: DIS) will announce its fiscal third-quarter results on Tuesday, Aug. 8. The entertainment giant's stock has sat out the market rally this year thanks to worries about stalling sales and profit growth. But will this week's results mark a turn back to steady gains for the business?
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Below we'll look at the key trends investors are following for Disney's upcoming report.
The media and networks division, home of the declining ESPN business, logged flat sales in the last six months while operating income dipped by 3%. CEO Bob Iger spent some time talking about the prospects for the ESPN brand in his last conference call with investors, where he highlighted strong demand for live sports in addition to healthy early demand for the product in over-the-top services including Sling TV, Hulu, and PlayStation Vue .
These improvements weren't enough to offset declining cable TV subscribers, but Disney is optimistic that the management team can navigate the industry shift away from broadcast television. "We're confident in our strategy and ability to manage change," he said.
This quarter's profit figures aren't likely to be much improved, though, thanks to rising programming costs around new NBA broadcasting rights. Increased distribution fees, meanwhile, should help lift overall media revenue slightly even as advertising sales drop due to the declining pay-TV subscriber base.
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The parks and resorts business
The parks and resorts segment has been a big winner so far this year and has a good shot at contributing gains again this quarter. The division added over $600 million in revenue over the past six months, or 8%, as profitability jumped.
A big portion of the sales gains are due to Disney's hit launch of its China theme park. Shanghai Disney welcomed its 10 millionth guest this quarter, which puts it ahead of management's aggressive targets just a year into its existence.
The lumpiness of the new resort business should pinch earnings this quarter, with costs set to spike during a seasonably weak period. Disney is targeting at least break-even results in China for the full year though.
The outlook is cloudier for the domestic parks. Rising resort reservations and higher average spending has helped them post record profitability. Competition is fierce over the peak summer months, though, which could contribute to lackluster growth this quarter.
The movie pipeline
The movie release calendar is a key factor behind the weakness in both the studio and consumer products divisions this year. The first fiscal quarter of 2016, after all, broke records for Disney thanks to the huge theatrical, licensing, and entertainment revenue that came from the global phenomenon, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While the House of Mouse released several movie hits so far in fiscal 2017, they collectively weren't big enough to fill that gap, and so Disney could potentially post a rare drop in annual operating growth following six straight years of record results.
It's likely to be just a temporary dip, though. Disney has a packed slate of releases ahead, including four Marvel pictures in addition to major launches from the Pixar and Disney Animation and live-action studios. The next big installment in the Star Wars franchise hits theaters in December, which is part of the company's fiscal 2018. Yet The Last Jedi is likely to begin lifting consumer product sales well before its launch, and so the management team should have plenty to say about early demand indications for the film this week.
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