Walt Disney (DIS 2.16%) has not been a stock market favorite in 2021, a peculiar scenario considering economic reopening has been favorable for the company's core businesses.
The trouble is rising from Disney's streaming services, which have seen customer demand slow down after surging at the pandemic onset. Still, the company's long-term prospects remain intact. Here are three reasons I am bullish on Disney stock.
1. Theme parks filling up
At one point during the pandemic, Disney was forced to shut down all of its theme parks. Thankfully, several effective vaccines were developed to fight COVID-19, which helped Disney open its parks. Disney's segment that includes theme parks nearly doubled revenue to $5.4 billion in 2021, up from $2.7 billion in 2020. Visitors are enthusiastic about returning to the parks that were closed for an extended time.
Customer spending is 30% higher than in the same quarter of 2019. And although the parks are not yet at full strength, attendance is increasing quarter over quarter. This trend is likely to continue as more folks get vaccinated.
2. Shift to streaming services on track
After years of resisting the consumer shift to streaming, in November 2019 the House of Mouse finally launched Disney+. The streaming service surged during the initial stages of the pandemic as folks cooped up at home desired more home entertainment options.
As of Oct. 2, Disney+ has reached 118 million paying subscribers. However, growth in the service has slowed down since economic reopening started. That has left some investors concerned that the ambitious targets that management has laid out may be too optimistic. Addressing those concerns, Disney CEO Bob Chapek reiterated the target for Disney+ of 245 million subscribers at the midpoint of 2024.
Disney's streaming progress has been slowed by the amount of content it can produce during the pandemic. An outbreak during production could delay filming for weeks. Eventually, Disney's content-producing machine will hit its stride, and its streaming services can be loaded with fresh content.
What's more, it is still launching Disney+ in new countries. Indeed, Chapek said that Disney+ will be available in 160 countries by fiscal year 2023, nearly double the number it's available in now.
3. A lower price despite improving business
Disney's stock is down 19% so far in 2021. While helpful to Disney's core businesses, economic reopening is hurting its streaming service growth, and investors appear more focused on that streaming growth. To that end, management has reiterated confidence in its long-run target. Moreover, its businesses that require bringing groups together are improving as more people are getting vaccinated.
Overall, I understand the near term will be volatile with Disney as it continues to battle the adverse effects of the coronavirus pandemic. However, as a long-term investor, I am willing to wait for the business to get back to full strength.