Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Good News for Comcast Might Not Be Good News for Disney and SeaWorld

By Rick Munarriz - Oct 24, 2019 at 11:30AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Theme parks were the one bright spot for Comcast's NBCUniversal segment this quarter, but is it enough to lift its peers out of what could be a challenging quarter?

Comcast (CMCSA 1.13%) became the first of the country's three major theme park operators to post financial results on Thursday, with SeaWorld Entertainment (SEAS -3.90%) and industry bellwether Disney (DIS 4.68%) set to step up early next month.

The news was largely positive. Comcast's Universal Studios theme parks segment saw its revenue climb nearly 7% to hit $1.6 billion for the seasonally potent three months ending in September. It was the only one of Comcast's four NBCUniversal segments to post a year-over-year increase for the third quarter, but it's not all good news. 

Comcast points out that the strong results are largely due to the easy comparison to last year when it posted a 2% decline at its theme parks -- the only one of the four NBCUniversal segments to decline that time around -- as extreme weather and natural disasters ate into attendance at Universal Studios Japan. The segment's two-year top-line gain of 5% isn't all that impressive, especially since ticket prices to most of its Universal Studios attractions have moved even higher in that time. 

The news is even less kind at the bottom line, as adjusted EBITDA at its theme parks division rose just 1% in the third quarter, and is down 6% since the same quarter in 2017. Operating costs are rising faster than revenue, and that's rarely a good look. 

A Universal Studios theme park street show featuring a Marilyn Monroe lookalike and sporty sailor dancers.

A Universal Studios theme park show. Image source: Comcast.

Check those seat belts

There have been unfavorable rumblings in the industry lately. Disney stunned investors when it posted a rare decline in attendance at its domestic theme parks for the three months ending in June, despite opening Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland during the quarter. It would go on to shake up its theme park executives later in the summer, a sign that things may not improve materially during its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended last month. SeaWorld Entertainment lost its CEO last month, less than seven months after he started. 

The strength for Comcast's parks in Thursday morning's report -- basically comparisons in Japan following depressed year-ago results -- also isn't going to apply to either of its peers. SeaWorld doesn't own parks outside of the U.S.; Disney does have a pair of successful gated attractions in Japan, but they are licensed parks that it does not own. In short, theme parks were one of the few bright spots for Comcast this past quarter, but that might not be the case for Disney and SeaWorld. 

The signs are out there that this typically busy summer season wasn't exactly great for the leading theme park operators. There have been customer-support layoffs at SeaWorld, and entertainment has been pared back at Disney World. All three operators have been aggressive with promotions these days, news that's great for consumers but on the other side of wonderful for the shareholders. Disney World even recently introduced a discounted midday ticket for folks arriving after noon.  

It doesn't seem as if Comcast, Disney, and SeaWorld are benefiting from the boost in consumer discretionary stocks that would normally accompany the seemingly rosy economic scenario. All three operators are also investing in new attractions, so it's not as if they're resting on their reputations. Comcast results still leave Disney and SeaWorld with a lot to prove when they offer up their fresh financials in two weeks. Stay buckled in, because the ride's not over.

Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Comcast and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

The Walt Disney Company Stock Quote
The Walt Disney Company
DIS
$117.69 (4.68%) $5.26
Comcast Corporation Stock Quote
Comcast Corporation
CMCSA
$39.40 (1.13%) $0.44
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. Stock Quote
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.
SEAS
$52.69 (-3.90%) $-2.14

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
390%
 
S&P 500 Returns
125%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 08/11/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.