Surging subscriber growth for Disney’s flagship streaming service provided a bright spot for the entertainment giant's fourth-quarter earnings despite the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic which will keep California's Disneyland closed through the end of first fiscal quarter, at least.
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Disney+, which costs $6.99 per month for its most basic package, has amassed more than 73 million paid subscribers in the year since its launch, company executives said in an earnings release. Disney was already making heavy investments in Disney+ and sister service ESPN+ prior to the pandemic, which has triggered a surge in digital viewership.
“Even with the disruption caused by COVID-19, we’ve been able to effectively manage our businesses while also taking bold, deliberate steps to position our company for greater long-term growth,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said in a statement. “The real bright spot has been our direct-to-consumer business, which is key to the future of our company, and on this anniversary of the launch of Disney+ we’re pleased to report that, as of the end of the fourth quarter, the service had more than 73 million paid subscribers – far surpassing our expectations in just its first year.”
Still, Disney is taking steps to protect its balance sheet amid the pandemic by disclosing plans to not declare a semi-annual cash dividend for the second half of fiscal 2020.
This after the entertainment giant reported an adjusted loss of $0.20 per share for the fourth quarter, much smaller than Wall Street analysts expected, according to Refinitiv data. The company generated $14.71 billion in quarterly revenue, surpassing a projected $14.20 billion.
Disney shares rose more than 5% in after-hours trading as Wall Street reacted to the better-than-expected numbers.
The company noted that its parks, experience and product segment had experienced the “most significant impact” from the pandemic due to lengthy closures and limited operations. Disney was also forced to make significant adjustments to its slate of upcoming movie and television releases.
Company executives are expected to provide more details about the lingering effects of the pandemic during an earnings conference call on Thursday afternoon.
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