When Disney (DIS -0.53%) announces earnings results for its fiscal second quarter on Tuesday, investors will probably focus a ton of attention on the health of its ESPN business. But while sinking subscriber numbers in the network threaten to pinch the entertainment giant's profits, Disney has other revenue streams that could make an even bigger difference in its long-run growth trajectory.
A beast of a box office haul
It's no secret that Disney scored a huge win at the box office with Beauty and the Beast. The film opened at No. 1 in theaters and has now grossed over $1 billion around the world. It is also the current box-office champion so far in 2017.
Beauty and the Beast was Disney's only movie release in the quarter, though, and the company is going up against a prior-year period that included big contributions from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Zootopia. And so the studio segment might post lower numbers this week, following last quarter's 7% revenue decline and 17% drop in profits .
There are many potential blockbusters still ahead for Disney this year, including the just-released Marvel film, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and a new sequel in the Pirates of the Caribbean brand. Of course, the next major chapter in the Star Wars franchise will probably steal the show when it drops in December, but that movie will do much more for Disney's next fiscal year than for the current one. In any case, this week's results should tell investors a lot about how far they can expect the studio segment to dip following fiscal 2016's record-breaking performance.
Toys and games
The consumer-products division is Disney's most profitable segment. In fact, its operating margin in fiscal 2016 was 36%, compared with 33% for the media networks, 29% in the studio business, and 19% at parks and resorts.
It's a relatively small part of the business, but big licensing growth, especially around hit movies and TV content, can make a difference in overall results. Disney partner Hasbro recently said it believes the Disney Princess and Frozen product lines will help it post solid growth in its business this year. In late April, the toys and games specialist noted strong demand for Moana merchandise and predicted solid gains on licensed products in the Beauty and the Beast segment ahead. That could spell rising profitability for Disney's broader business.
Disney's parks and resorts segment was the only one to post increases in either revenue or profit last quarter -- and the division managed solid gains in both. Revenue rose 6% to $4.5 billion, and operating income jumped 13% to $1.1 billion. The division set a record for profitability despite a $70 million hit from Hurricane Matthew.
Bookings, spending, and prices are all trending higher in Disney's domestic parks, but management is especially excited about the long-run prospects for the new Shanghai Disney property. That resort sits within a four-hour drive of over 300 million people. As CEO Bob Iger explained to investors, that's as if "the whole population of the U.S. could afford a ticket to Orlando and could get there [easily] no matter what transportation they used."
The main peak seasons of the fiscal year have passed for the Shanghai property and attendance broke 7 million guests as of early February. Executives would be thrilled to reach 10 million visitors by the time the park turns a year old in June. Thanks to growing popularity and high guest satisfaction scores, that aggressive target seems within reach.
With help from these divisions, Disney might just manage its seventh straight year of record results even as the pay-TV segment continues to struggle under the weight of subscriber losses.