Media company Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS) reported fourth-quarter financial results and an update on its Disney+ streaming platform.
Here are more highlights from the fourth quarter and what’s ahead with details coming from Disney CEO Bob Iger and the company’s earnings call.
Disney recently began rolling out its sports segment as a separate operating segment, which could highlight the strength of the company’s ESPN brand.
Iger said ESPN was up in operating income and revenue in the fourth quarter and full year with ESPN having strong ratings on the year. A plan to grow the ESPN brand through a more focused direct-to-consumer push remains top of mind for Disney’s growth plans.
“We feel great about that,” said Iger.
Iger said Disney was looking to strengthen the push with one or two strategic partners that can provide additional support with marketing, technical support or content.
“We’ve been in discussions with a number of entities.”
Iger said Disney was targeting a launch before the end of 2025, but wouldn’t give a specific date.
The Disney CEO was asked about the upcoming NBA rights renewal, which could come with several other interested parties.
“NBA is very important to ESPN, has been for a long time, I should note that ESPN is important to the NBA too.”
Iger said ESPN brought a level of support and engagement with the NBA audience through shows, podcasts, radio and online.
“And I don’t think that should be discounted.”
It was recently announced that Disney is buying out the stake of streaming platform Hulu that it did not already own from minority owner Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA).
Iger said that an one-app experience with Hulu and Disney+ will be coming next month.
The Disney CEO said the combination of Hulu and Disney+ could lead to increased engagement, lower churn and higher advertising revenue.
Disney reported it gained around seven million core Disney+ subscribers in the fourth quarter.
“We do expect subscriber growth to continue,” said Iger.
The Disney CEO said that alongside subscriber growth the key focus was profitability.
Iger said during the company’s conference call that 50% of new U.S. Disney+ subscribers in the fourth quarter chose the ad-supported plans.
Another topic tackled by Iger during his CNBC interview Wednesday afternoon was the ongoing Hollywood Strike, with actors still negotiating contracts.
“I have the utmost respect for actors,” said Iger.
Iger said he was optimistic a deal would be reached relatively soon and currently the impact was minimal, but “In terms of impact on the business…if the strike goes on much longer it could become significant.”
Iger wouldn’t specify a deadline to reach a deal to preserve the summer of films for 2024, but said that all sides are hard at work to solve the conflict.
The comments from Iger came after Disney recently announced a shift of several movies from 2024 to 2025.
Iger said he recently spoke with activist investor Nelson Peltz, who is pursuing potential board of director changes and other items. Iger did not get into specifics as to what was discussed.
On the conference call, it was announced the company would be recommending a dividend to be declared by the board of directors by the end of the calendar year.
Iger also highlighted the launch of ESPN Bet, which happens next week. The sports betting platform came from PENN Entertainment (NASDAQ:PENN) through a licensing agreement with Disney.
Produced in association with Benzinga