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Don't Worry Disney Investors, We're Not at Peak Disney

By Rick Munarriz – Jul 26, 2016 at 4:24PM

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FBR Capital lowers its rating on the media giant, fearing that things may not get a lot better in fiscal 2017.

Image source: Disney.

Another Wall Street pro is cooling on Walt Disney (DIS 0.43%) shares as an investment. FBR Capital analyst Barton Crocket downgraded the stock this morning, taking it from outperform to market perform. He's also reducing his price target from $111 to $108.   

Crocket is concerned that its studio's success in fiscal 2017 -- Disney's new fiscal year that begins in a little more than two months -- won't be able to live up to this year's blowout performance. Despite the recent ho-hum performances of The BFG and Alice Through the Looking Glass, Disney has had a hand in most of this year's hottest movies.

Disney's Buena Vista is the studio behind Finding Dory, Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book, and Zootopia, four of this calendar year's five highest domestic grossing movies. The lone holdout -- Deadpool -- was put out by a rival studio, but it's based on its Marvel character. Tack on the success that Star Wars: The Force Awakens had over the holidays -- important since it was released during Disney's current fiscal year -- and it's easy to see why things may not get any better than this. 

Factor in the continuing slide in ESPN subscribers and the recent dip in attendance at Disney World, and it's easy to fear that this is peak Disney. Don't buy into that mindset. 

It's a great, big, beautiful tomorrow

Disney commanding an unheard of 22% of the domestic box office share -- as Crocket points out -- and essentially all of Hollywood's biggest hits is rarefied air. It's not the peak. Disney spent billions acquiring Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm over the past decade to make sure that it has a killer batting lineup year after year.

We also see multiplex ticket prices inching higher. It's also not just about ticket sales. A hot franchise can be milked through consumer products, theme park attractions, and spin-offs -- and nobody is as good as putting all of that together like Disney.

The ESPN funk is real, and it's made worse by content contracts that move higher over time. However, ESPN viewership has been sliding since peaking in 2010, and Disney still finds a way for its media networks division's revenue and operating profits to keep climbing. 

Disney World attendance will bounce back once new attractions open and Latin American economies stabilize. It's particularly painful right now as a result of a big increase in pricing for single-day tickets and annual passes, but those guests that are coming are spending more. 

There are plenty of reasons to get excited about fiscal 2017. From Star Wars Rogue One hitting screens during the holidays to the arrival of a Pandora-themed land (from Avatar) at Disney World, there will be plenty of bar-raising developments to ease the sting of cord-cutters weighing on its cable properties. We're not at peak Disney.

Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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