It's been a good year to be a Disney (DIS -0.35%) shareholder. The media giant's stock hit an all-time high last month, and the shares have soared 34% in 2019. Disney seems to be firing on all cylinders, but the new calendar year will be more challenging.
There are still some pressure points at Disney, and some of its biggest drivers could come under fire in 2020. Let's look at some of the things that might trip up the stock in the year ahead.
1. Disneyland can fail to turn its attendance woes around
One of the more shocking statistics for the media giant is that turnstile clicks at its original theme park resort -- Disneyland in California -- have declined in back-to-back quarters. The opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in late May should have delivered a boost in traffic, but year-over-year attendance levels slipped in that period as well as the subsequent peak summertime quarter.
The good news here is that the 14-acre Galaxy's Edge expansion didn't open completely over Memorial Day weekend. The second phase will kick in come mid-January, when Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens. The early reviews for the same bar-raising attraction that opened at Disney World earlier this month are fantastic. If Disneyland's attendance doesn't bounce back by Disney's fiscal second quarter (the three months ending in March) investors may start to lose their patience with the turnaround in California.
2. Disney+ might eat into its media networks business
The greatest catalyst for Disney stock's gains in 2019 has been the success of Disney+. Disney turned heads in April when it announced aggressive pricing for a massive amount of streaming content. It followed that up with equally ambitious discounting on multi-year plans that helped it amass more than 10 million subscribers the day it went live in mid-November. The hype is only growing, as The Mandalorian is the first of what will likely be many smash-hit original shows exclusive to the service.
Disney+ was always going to be a risky bet. Disney collects more from the average cable and satellite television customer -- in the form of carriage rights for Disney Channel, ESPN, and other properties -- than the $6.99 per month it is charging for Disney+. If Disney+ encourages more old-school viewers to "cut the cord," it could have a negative impact on the segment's revenue.
3. It won't top 2019 at the box office
Disney is having a monster year at the corner multiplex. It currently has this year's four highest-grossing movies, and by the end of the month it will likely have the six top slots as Frozen II and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker dominate the box office. There is no way that it comes even close next year.
This is the ninth and final installment of the iconic Star Wars franchise. A new related series will come out in a few years. There will be a couple of Marvel flicks in 2020, but none generating the buzz of the Avengers series that's been multiplex gold in recent years. Even on the animated front, there's nothing that will match the Toy Story and Frozen sequels that fired up ticket sales this calendar year.
Even the most ardent bulls are bracing for a downturn in revenue from Disney's theatrical releases in 2020. The news will get even worse for most of Disney's segments if we belly flop into a recession in the coming year. Disney is on top of the world right now, but after a hot 2019, it's a long way down if it doesn't build on the past year's success.