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Walt Disney's Disappointing Q2 Isn't the End of the World

By Motley Fool Staff - May 20, 2016 at 8:00AM

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The quarter was a dud, but the company still has a lot of potential.

A weaker-than-expected fiscal 2016 second quarter for Disney (DIS 1.84%) put an end to the company's five-year streak of beating estimates. 

No one should worry about its prospects going forward, though. In this segment from the Motley Fool Money radio show, Chris Hill and Jason Moser talk about why an earnings miss had to come sooner or later, the better-than-some-think state of major TV asset ESPN, and why the company is jettisoning its Infinity video game segment. They also talk about the need to find a replacement for CEO Robert Iger.

A full transcript follows the video.

[Editor's note: a previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the first quarter in its headline and transcript. The company reported its fiscal 2016 second quarter results on May 10, 2016.]

This podcast was recorded on May 13, 2016. 

Chris Hill: Despite all the success the Walt Disney Company has had at the box office recently, first quarter profits came in lower than expected. The company also scrapped Infinity, its video game line. Jason, they had five good years of not missing on profits, and that streak came to an end.

Jason Moser: Well, it has to sometime. Let's reset the bar here, and maybe set those expectations a little bit lower, so next year they're a little bit easier to clear. I think the biggest question with Walt Disney to this point has always been in regard to ESPN and how are they going to monetize this property going forward, in the face of over the top programming and the big cable providers being more or less disrupted. It looked like ESPN really brought the results this quarter, though. Operating income was up 9%. It looks like the part of the business is trending nicely in this current quarter. So, again, we look at this ESPN situation as a question more of distribution, as opposed to the actual platform itself. 

Maybe we're not going to have the big cable companies distributing all that content all over the place, but we're going to have skinnier bundles; we'll have mobile technology; plenty of global channels out there for ESPN to be distributed. And I think that will continue to do well. 

I think what's really impressive with what Disney has done, if you look back to 2006, since the acquisition of Pixar, and Bob Iger has gone on with Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel. They have released 27 movies under the Pixar, Disney Animation, Marvel, and Lucasfilm brands. Of those 27 films, they've had an average global box office of about $770 million each. So, these guys kill it on that front. The nice part of that is the way they're able to leverage that success into other parts of the business, whether it's consumer products or the parks, what have you. I think getting rid of the video game side of the business was a sensible thing to do. It was always the underperformer, and it's a lot easier to just license those properties out to the companies that do a better job there. 

So, really, the next big question for Disney is going to be on leadership. They didn't give us a whole lot of insight there. We know Iger is there until, I think, July of 2018 or something like that. It doesn't sound like he's going to re-up. I think they're really focusing on figuring out who they can get to replace him. But that'll be the big question that needs to be answered, because he's obviously done a very good job.

Hill: Do you think three months from now they need to have an answer to that question? Not necessarily, this is the person, but at least some sort of progress on the search to replace Iger?

Moser: Perhaps. But I think three months from now, we're probably going to hear more about Disney Shanghai and a lot of the hype around that opening. This has been another one of those points of focus for Iger ever since he's been there. I think he's really going to want to focus on the success of that, rather than the question of leadership. We have a little bit of time before we have to get that.

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