The Walt Disney Company Beats Big as Its Movie Unit Remains Unmatched

Disney's second-quarter earnings proved that the company has the best and most successful movie unit in the entire industry.

May 14, 2014 at 5:30PM

Very impressive recent earnings results from The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) highlight the advantages of a robust and diversified media-content portfolio. Although the company showed strong top- and bottom-line growth in its second quarter, Disney's momentum only looks to increase going forward.

Accordingly, shares of Disney remain the easiest to recommend in the media space for long-term growth, even over well-rounded competitors like Time Warner (NYSE:TWX).


Source: Disney 

Frozen leads the way
On a year-over-year basis, Disney's record second-quarter diluted earnings grew 30% to $1.08, up from $0.83 in 2013. Revenue increased 10% to $11.6 billion, up from $10.5 billion in 2013. 

These results also managed to beat consensus estimates, which called for earnings of $0.96 per diluted share on revenue of $11.25 billion. The results from Disney represent a significant beat for the company. 

In the company's recent release, Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger explained:

We're extremely pleased with our results this quarter, delivering double-digit increases in operating income across all of our businesses and the highest quarterly earnings per share in the history of the Company. Our continued strong performance reflects the strength of our brands, the quality of our content, and our unique ability to leverage creative success across the entire Company to drive value. 

The standout business segment in the quarter, which is definitely becoming a pattern as of late, was Disney's movie production unit. The studio entertainment unit grew revenue 35% on a year-over-year basis and generated revenue of $1.8 billion versus $1.3 billion in the comparable quarter of 2013. The movie unit's operating income surged 300% to $475 million, up from $118 million in the comparable quarter of 2013. Other than the very small interactive segment, which grew its revenue 38%, the movie segment was by far Disney's best performer in the quarter. 

The impressive growth was driven largely by the success of the animated feature film Frozen and Marvel property Thor: The Dark World, for which there was no direct competitor in 2013's comparable quarter. According to Box Office Mojo, Frozen had generated a worldwide gross of $1.17 billion as of May 4. 

Other major Disney segments grew well in the second quarter too. The media networks unit grew 4%, parks and resorts grew 8%, and consumer products grew 16%. 

Continued success?
The company is set to release the next movie in the Marvel lineup entitled Guardians of the Galaxy, which management believes has strong franchise potential. 

Additionally, progress on the Star Wars front continues and the first new movie remains on pace for release in late 2015. This could be another Marvel-sized success for Disney going forward, especially considering the already-massive fan base of the science-fiction universe and its noted ability to capture the attention of youthful viewers. 

Disney CEO Bob Iger explained:

"And we made some other news last week when we announced the cast of Star Wars Episode VII, which includes some very familiar faces as well as some exciting new talent. And the reaction has been tremendous. I was at Pinewood Studios with JJ Abrams a couple of weeks ago and left more confident than ever that Episode VII will be the extraordinary movie Star Wars fans have been waiting for." 

Disney's movie unit is indeed firing on all cylinders and not many competitors are even close to offering similarly robust content offerings. In fact, only competitor Time Warner's movie unit is in the ballpark in terms of scale and breadth of content.

Time Warner, which has been busy building up its DC Entertainment property to compete with Disney's Marvel unit, has been actively competing with Disney lately. The studio's latest movie, 2013's Man of Steel, generated a worldwide gross of $668 million.  However, Disney's Marvel movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier recently overtook the Man of Steel at the box office. 

The company is planning a big 2016 with the release of the eagerly anticipated Batman vs. Superman movie, which will be going up against the third Captain America installment. 

However, the DC unit does not appear to be helping Time Warner much in the short term. Analysts expect Time Warner to experience a 7% decline in revenue and only a 6.1% increase in earnings per share in 2104. This compares very poorly to analysts' expectations for Disney, which call for 7.1% growth in revenue and 21.8% growth in EPS in the same year. 


Source: Disney 

Foolish Takeaway
Disney's latest earnings results highlight just how well its movie unit is performing as of late. With even bigger content offerings scheduled over the next few years, the best is most likely yet to come. This means that Disney is a convincing long-term buy at current levels. As always Foolish investors should do their own research before making any investment decisions. 

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Philip Saglimbeni owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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