The earnings spotlight was burning bright on Disney (DIS -2.81%) this week, and the media giant generally nailed its numbers. Disney posted a slightly better-than-expected 36% surge in revenue for its fiscal first quarter, fueled largely by a major content acquisition last year. Profitability went the other way, but it still managed to handily beat Wall Street's earnings targets for the fourth time in the past five quarters.
As for the headline numbers, Disney+ closed out the quarter with 26.5 million subscribers after launching in mid-November, and Disney's films topped $11 billion in ticket sales during the 2019 calendar year. There are a lot of numbers in the report, but let's go over some of the figures that matter even if they're not generating as much attention.
Don't sleep on Hulu. It's true that the now fully Disney-owned streaming service isn't growing as quickly as Disney+. But it did have 27.2 million paid subscribers at the end of December, a 29% increase over the past year. Hulu + Live TV, a pricier service that combines Hulu with dozens of live network streams, nearly doubled its audience to 3.2 million paid subscribers.
It's easy to argue that it took Disney+ less than two months to nearly catch up Hulu, which has been at this for years. In fact, Disney+ passed Hulu at some point last month. But we can't dismiss how important Hulu is to Disney.
Disney+ has succeeded largely because of its aggressive pricing and discounting. Disney+ costs $6.99 a month, and it offered price breaks on multiyear deals ahead of its launch. Its subscribers are also paying an average of $5.56 a month for the service, less than half of Hulu's monthly average of $13.15. Put another way, Disney+ would have to more than double its subscriber base to generate the kind of revenue the media giant is collecting from Hulu. And that's before even considering the $59.47-per-month average that folks are shelling out for Hulu + Live TV.
Disney's theme parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong have been closed for nearly two weeks as a result of the coronavirus. Disney has a sizable yet non-controlling stake in both resorts, and on Tuesday we got a glimpse of the kind of damage investors can expect as a result of the shuttered attractions.
Disney now expects to post a $135 million charge in the current quarter for Disney Shanghai and a $40 million hit for Hong Kong Disneyland. The problem is that neither resort has reopened, so that $175 million might only be a starting figure.
Even when the attractions do open, it's not as if things will go right back to normal. Hong Kong Disneyland was already suffering from an attendance decline late last year, in light of the protests scaring away potential visitors. In Shanghai, the resort was humming along nicely before the coronavirus strike, but momentum is hard to sustain, and even harder to regain.
The only Disney segment to not post at least double-digit percentage growth was its parks, experiences, and products division. Its top line rose 8% during the fiscal first quarter, but that's pretty impressive since it's also the only segment not currently cranking out inflated top-line gains as a result of the Twenty-First Century Fox assets that were acquired in late March of last year. The segment's operating profit rose 9%, so the margin there actually expanded during the quarter.
An important takeaway from the report is that Disneyland has finally turned its attendance woes around, following back-to-back quarters of year-over-year declines at its original California resort. Turnstile clicks at Disney's domestic theme parks rose 2% for the quarter, and per capita guest spending is up 10% as a result of higher ticket prices, as well as more money spent on merchandise, food, and beverages.
Disney's report wasn't perfect. It still experienced declining revenue at ESPN, Hong Kong Disneyland, and its legacy media networks business. However, as one of the market's undeniable blue chip stocks, Disney doesn't have to hit on all cylinders to put out impressive numbers.