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Disney Earnings on Tap: Here's What to Watch on Tuesday

By Beth McKenna – May 6, 2017 at 11:43AM

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On Tuesday, May 9, investors should focus on these three main areas when the entertainment giant reports fiscal second-quarter results.

Walt Disney Co. (DIS -0.15%) reports its second-quarter results for fiscal 2017 after the market close on Tuesday, May 9. 

The entertainment giant is going into its report on a pretty note, with its Beauty and the Beast (2017) reigning as 2017's top-grossing movie worldwide, as of the time of writing. However, the year-over-year comparison bar is very high for studio entertainment, so investors should keep their expectations realistic.

Since November, shares of Disney have bounced back nicely from their decline that began in August 2015 due to what's so far proven to be overblown fears about cable cord-cutting negatively affecting the company's overall financial results. In 2017, Disney's stock has returned 9.8%, versus the S&P 500's 7.5%, as of May 2.

Boy with Goofy character in front of Mark Twain Riverboat ride at Disneyland.

Image source: Disney.

The headline numbers

Here are the previous period's results to use as benchmarks:


Q2 2016 Result


$12.97 billion

Segment operating income

$3.82 billion

Net income

$2.14 billion

Adjusted earnings per share (EPS)


Data source: Disney.

Disney doesn't provide earnings guidance. Analysts are expecting it will earn $1.41 per share on revenue of $13.45 billion, representing year-over-year increases of 3.7% for both metrics. Long-term investors shouldn't pay too much attention to Wall Street's near-term estimates, but they can be handy to know because they can help make sense out of market reactions

Beyond the headline numbers, here's what to watch in the report:

Media networks: Cable results and streaming service plans

Investors know the drill by now, as it's been nearly two years since it came into focus that Disney has been steadily losing ESPN subscribers due to consumers increasingly cutting or slimming down their big cable packages, or not signing up for cable in the first place. Focus should remain on results in the cable portion of the media networks business and how the company is navigating the changes in the consumer TV-viewing market. 

On that note, since we're now a third of the way through 2017, investors should soon be hearing from Disney's management regarding when it plans to use its BAMTech stake, acquired last fall, to launch its ESPN-branded multisport subscription streaming service. As of the last earnings call, this launch remained slated for 2017. 

Parks and resorts: Another solid quarter?

It seems likely that parks and resorts will once again turn in solid results. The shift in the timing of the New Year's holiday relative to Disney's fiscal periods will have a positive impact this quarter, whereas it had a negative impact last quarter. (The New Year holiday fell within the first quarter of fiscal 2016, but fell within the second quarter this year.) Revenue results will also get a boost from Shanghai Disney, as the massive park opened last June, so it wasn't included in the company's second-quarter results last year. CEO Bob Iger said on the last earnings call that the park was "enormously popular" over the Chinese New Year holiday in late January through early February.  

Investors should continue to monitor attendance at Disney's domestic parks, though keep in mind that quarterly results will always be a little lumpy due to various factors that affect comparability. Last quarter, domestic attendance declined 5% year over year; however, if we exclude the one-time factors and the impact from the shift in the fiscal calendar, attendance declined only 1%.

Scene from "Beauty and the Beast" -- two title characters walking arm-in-arm, as shown from behind.

Image source: Disney.

Studio entertainment: Expect another tough comparable

As with last quarter, Disney faces a tough comparable in its movie business. The company churned out yet another blockbuster with its Beauty and the Beast (2017), which opened domestically on March 17, so about two weeks of its theatrical receipts will be included in the quarter's results. This should prove to be a tidy sum because the live-action/animated film has taken in more than $1.43 billion, as of May 2. Moreover, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which opened in mid-December, should once again make a princely contribution to Disney's quarterly coffers.

However, the quarter's results will almost surely fall short of studio's powerful results in the year-ago period. In that quarter, Disney's year-over-year revenue and operating income soared 22% and 27%, respectively, driven by the megasuccessful Star Wars: The Force Awakens, released domestically before the holidays in 2015. Additionally, the first month's box-office take of animated hit Zootopia was included in that quarter. 

In short, investors should keep expectations in check and keep in mind that Iger has said that fiscal 2017 will be a slower-growth year, but the company's more recent robust growth dynamics will continue in fiscal 2018.  

Beth McKenna has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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