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2 Great Reasons to Buy Disney Stock Despite Investor Fears

By Jennifer Saibil - Dec 1, 2020 at 8:47AM

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The market isn't appreciating yet the huge potential ahead as business recovers.

I normally wouldn't suggest buying stock in a company that has posted two straight quarters of declines, but times are not quite normal. Great companies have been crushed by the pandemic despite their best efforts, including Disney ( DIS -0.67% ). Here are two reasons to buy Disney despite the scary climate.

1. The future is Disney+

The entertainment giant launched its premium streaming subscription service Disney+ exactly one year ago, and it's been a huge success. It's grown to 73 million paid subscribers as of the end of September as COVID-19 has kept people at home and out of theaters, and streaming is here to stay. The service is offered in 24 markets and growing.

Disney has been launching films straight to streaming to bypass closed movie theaters, and it even charged paid subscribers an extra $29.99 to view the release of Mulan. Total revenue decreased 23% in the fourth quarter ended Oct. 3, but the direct-to-consumer category increased 41%.

Mickey Mouse in Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Image source: The Walt Disney Company.

Disney owns several production studios, and in the age of streaming, that gives the company a leg up on competitors as well as an outlet for its significant talent. 

Disney has a well-diversified collection of businesses. Each is top of its class and together they give the company great potential. As fast as it's growing its direct-to-consumer businesses, Disney is developing content to display on its sites. It has more than 100 works in development that will be distributed among its various channels.

The company's production studios accounted for seven of the 10 highest-grossing films in the U.S. in 2019, and in the new normal they can release new films straight to streaming or cut deals with theater operators, as some have started to do. 2020 won't match 2019's stellar film lineup, which included the last film in the Star Wars franchise and Frozen II, but the studios will keep releasing hits.

One of Disney's most cherished prizes is its huge library of content, and it has other streaming sites and networks to feature differentiated content. The company acquired Hulu in 2019 for general programming, and premium news channel ESPN+ rounds out its U.S. sites, but it has other global streaming sites in other markets. The company has 120 million subscriptions worldwide for all of its streaming sites.

CEO Bob Chapek said, "The real bright spot has been our direct-to-consumer business, which is key to the future of our company." 

2. Parks and experiences will reopen 

The parks, experiences, and products segment, which was historically Disney's largest revenue driver, has given a dismal contribution to overall sales. After being closed for months, some parks are now open, and the segment improved from an 85% decline in the third quarter to a 61% decline in the fourth quarter. But that's still a long way from positive. 

Epcot Center at Disney World.

Image source: The Walt Disney Company.

It's still an unknown when the entire system will be able to resume normal operations, and it could be a long time coming. In the meantime, several parks are open with limited capacity. Chapek said that of a $3.1 billion COVID-19 impact on segment operating income, which is more than 20% of total revenue, parks accounted for $2.4 billion. Segment operating income came in at $606 million, an 82% decline over 2019, worse than the 72% decline in the third quarter.

But Disney has an edge in its unmatched theme parks, and the products portion of the segment is already back in stores. The company has several cruise lines ready to launch, and demand is already high. Disney typically sees high growth in this segment and has more to go in opening new parks and resorts.

Disney still operated at a loss in the fourth quarter ended Sept. 30, but there's been sequential improvement over the course of the pandemic. The share price is about flat year to date, and investors shouldn't overlook a great opportunity to buy in before it rises.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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