Walt Disney (DIS 0.33%) hasn't exactly been a strong performer, with shares down by about 40% over the past year.
To be sure, there are some valid reasons why Disney's stock is down right now. Recession fears are an obvious one, as Disney relies on discretionary spending throughout its business. We're already seeing reports of a slowdown at the company's theme parks, and if a full-blown recession hits, it could get worse. And there's also the fear that while Disney's streaming business has ramped up tremendously fast, it will be tough to achieve sustained profitability.
Despite these worries, the reality is that Disney's business is extremely strong right now, and there are some exciting future catalysts that could translate into long-tailed growth potential.
Disney's business remains very strong
Recent results have been very strong. Revenue in the company's latest fiscal quarter jumped 26% year over year, far better than the market expected, as the COVID-19 pandemic didn't have nearly as much of an effect on the business.
First, as anyone who has been to a Disney theme park lately can tell you, demand for in-person entertainment is back in full force. And not only have the parks been full, but Disney is doing a tremendous job of increasing monetization. Newer products like the Genie+ and Lightning Lane pay-per-use features are increasing per-guest spending, and revenue increased by a staggering 70% year over year in the Parks, Experiences, and Products segment. Disney's parks are actually generating more revenue than in pre-COVID times, and with fewer guests.
On the streaming side of the business, user growth has been excellent. Many investors had feared that Disney+ growth would grind to a halt (as we recently saw with Netflix (NFLX 2.72%)), but that simply isn't the case. The company added more than 14 million Disney+ subscribers globally in the latest quarter alone, bringing its total to 152.1 million. The company did post a loss of $1.06 billion in its direct-to-consumer segment as it invests heavily in content, but a growing subscriber base should translate to long-tailed profitability.
Is Disney stock a buy right now?
In addition to excellent results from the theme parks and the rapidly growing streaming subscriber base, there are several other reasons to be optimistic. For one thing, Disney's movie business has finally started to ramp back up, and there's an impressive schedule of theatrical releases in the second half of the year, including the long-awaited Avatar sequel.
Disney plans to launch its ad-supported Disney+ tier in the U.S. in December. This could not only jump-start even more growth in the subscriber base, but it could create a multi-billion-dollar ad revenue stream for the service. And finally, recent reports indicate that Disney is developing a membership service (similar to Amazon's (AMZN 0.83%) Prime membership) that could dramatically boost cross-selling to Disney's extremely loyal and engaged customer base.
Disney could certainly experience some near-term pain until inflation is under control and recession risk subsides. But at a 40% discount to its share price a year ago when its core businesses were still feeling the effects of the pandemic, Disney looks like a fantastic buy for patient long-term investors.