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Disney Earnings on Tap -- What to Watch on Tuesday

By Beth McKenna – May 5, 2018 at 9:56AM

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When the entertainment giant reports its fiscal second-quarter earnings, investors should focus on how well the company is positioning itself for long-term growth in its media networks business.

Walt Disney Co. (DIS -2.31%) is slated to report its fiscal second-quarter 2018 financial results after the market closes on Tuesday, May 8.

Let's take a brief look at where the entertainment giant stands now and then get into what to watch in Tuesday's report. 

Going into the report on a solid note

Disney is going into its earnings report on a solid note. Last quarter, the company kicked off fiscal 2018 with a return to growth after both revenue and net income dipped 1% year over year in fiscal 2017. Disney CEO Bob Iger made it clear early on that 2017 would see a pause in the company's recent growth dynamics, but he's also long said the company was poised to resume those robust growth dynamics in 2018. So far, so good. In the first quarter, revenue increased 4% year over year, while earnings per share (EPS) adjusted for one-time factors jumped 22%.

View of Cinderella's Castle at Disney World at dawn or dusk.

Image source: Getty Images.

Disney released a blockbuster Marvel movie, Black Panther, in February, which should help power its results. Moreover, the company is fresh off two huge events occurring in April: The release of another Marvel megahit, Avengers: Infinity War, and the launch of its much anticipated sports streaming service, ESPN+. While the success of these ventures won't start showing up in the company's financial results until its fiscal third quarter, they're nonetheless encouraging from a big picture standpoint.

Disney stock has been bouncing up and down, generally within the $90 to $110 per share range, for nearly the last three years after retreating from its all-time high of just over $120 per share reached in August 2015. The company's -- actually, the entire cable industry's -- well publicized cord-cutting woes are largely to blame. The stock should resume its upward march if Disney's direct-to-consumer streaming services are a success.

The headline numbers

Here are the year-ago period's results to use as benchmarks:


Q2 2017 Result


$13.34 billion

Net income

$2.39 billion

GAAP earnings per share (EPS)


Adjusted EPS


Data source: Disney. GAAP = generally accepted accounting principles.

Disney doesn't provide earnings guidance. Analysts are expecting The House of Mouse will earn $1.69 per share on revenue of $14.08 billion, representing growth of 12.7% and 5.6% year over year, respectively. Long-term investors shouldn't pay too much attention to Wall Street's near-term expectations, but they can be helpful to know as they often help explain market reactions.

Media networks: Focus on cable results and early demand for ESPN+ 

There will be much focus on Disney's cable business within its media networks segment, given the company's loss of cable subscribers in recent years due to consumers' growing love affair with video-streaming options. The cable business, while becoming less important over time, contributed 36% of the company's total segment operating profit in fiscal 2017, while the media networks segment as a whole (includes broadcasting) added 47% of total operating profit. 

That said, investors should continue to look beyond the quarterly results to ascertain how well Disney seems to be positioning itself to thrive over the long term. On the earnings call, management should provide some color about the initial reception to the ESPN+ streaming service, which launched on April 12. The service, which is priced at $4.99 per month and has a lot of original programming, is aimed at complementing Disney's cable ESPN offerings. Investors might also get an update about the company's broader subscription streaming service, which is slated to roll out in late 2019. 

Lastly, investors can probably expect a progress report on Disney's pending acquisition of Twenty-First Century Fox's entertainment assets, which is moving through the regulatory process. 

Studio entertainment: Expect Black Panther to "green up" results

Disney's movie business should get a jolt from Marvel's Black Panther, which was released domestically on Feb. 16. The film has been a box-office superhero, raking in $202 million in its opening weekend -- the best opening weekend ever for a movie released in the winter season (a category that doesn't include the holidays). It's taken in global receipts of nearly $1.34 billion, as of Friday afternoon, making it this year's highest-grossing movie and the ninth best of all time.

Parks and resorts: The consistent workhorse will likely come through

Investors can probably expect Disney's park business to come through again. In the first quarter and in fiscal 2017, it was the only segment that grew both revenue and operating income year over year. Moreover, it grew them quite vigorously, with revenue increasing 13% and operating income soaring 22%. Domestic parks and Shanghai Disney have been driving growth for some time. The cruise line, vacation club, and Disneyland Paris also helped boost growth last quarter.

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

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