You can't please everybody. Shares of Walt Disney (DIS 0.33%) moved lower in after-hours trading last night despite posting better-than-expected quarterly results shortly after the market closed.
Revenue climbed 14% higher with each of its four operating segments growing by at least 8% when pitted against the prior year's fiscal first quarter. Operating income and adjusted earnings grew even faster.
This would seem to be a blowout quarter, with the House of Mouse beating Wall Street forecasts on both ends of the income statement. However, the stock still initially moved 3% lower on concerns that operating income at its media networks division declined for the period. Costs for ESPN sports programming, original Disney Channel content, and the timing of college bowl games gnawed away at the segment's margins, and that's what weighed on the market in consuming Disney's financials last night.
The pessimism isn't likely to last. Let's go over three reasons Disney stock should bounce back in the coming months.
1. ESPN's shortfall is old news
CEO Bob Iger said during the subsequent earnings call that there was a recent uptick in subscribers at ESPN -- and an 8% year-over-year pop in revenue for the segment doesn't seem like something problematic -- but that wasn't enough to prevent the market from beating the same cord-cutting horse that it's been flogging since August.
It's an old story. ESPN peaked at 100 million subscribers in fiscal 2010. It has gone from 99 million to 95 million to 92 million over the past three years. The trend is unmistakable, and Disney will eventually realize that it can't keep entering into contracts with leagues where the rates inch higher with every passing year. However, revenue continues to grow at Disney. It's making this work. This has become a bearish battle cry since Disney stock peaked this past summer, but it's a story that's five years old.
2. Star Wars is bigger than ESPN
We knew Star Wars: The Force Awakens was going to be huge, but there's more to this than the 46% surge in Disney's studio entertainment division. Star Wars was all over Disney's blowout report. Consumer products moved higher because of the new Star Wars toys that the media giant introduced weeks ahead of the movie's release. Disney's interactive segment moved higher, for a change, on the strength of the Star Wars: Battlefront video game. Disney's theme parks clocked in with a record holiday quarter, powered by several Star Wars-themed attractions it opened in December.
This isn't just a movie, and the good news is that we're just getting started. The quarter ended just as the film was wrapping up its second week at the corner multiplex. It didn't even open in China until a week after the quarter came to a close. As big as ESPN has been, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an asset that resonates across most of Disney's segments -- and it's doing very well.
3. The stock is too cheap to ignore
Disney stock hit an all-time high the day it would go on to report fiscal third-quarter results this past summer. It hit a new 52-week low yesterday, ahead of its fiscal first-quarter report six months later. Disney itself has only gotten better since then, in every regard except for a slight dip in operating income at its media networks division.
At the same time, the stock has only gotten cheaper. Last night's earnings report pushes Disney's trailing earnings multiple to just 17 as of last night's close. It's been a couple of years since the stock was this cheap, so thank ESPN for the bargain today. Don't expect it to last.