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Disney+ Can't Bail Disney Out Forever

By Rick Munarriz - Updated Feb 12, 2021 at 12:11PM

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Peak Disney following a barely profitable quarter and a 22% decline in revenue? That's just Goofy!

If a year ago someone told you that Walt Disney (DIS 3.69%) would be hitting new all-time highs a year later you probably wouldn't put up too much of a fight against the bullish argument. It's Disney! However, if you were also told that we'd be at Peak Disney the day after the company posted a 22% year-over-year decline in revenue as part of a barely profitable quarter you would think the market would have to be goofy -- or Goofy.

Welcome to the new and premium-priced Disney investor mindset. Half of its theme parks remain closed and the multiplex is dead as a revenue stream, but Disney+ is exploding in popularity. Everyone loves when a disruptor upends itself, and now investors are starting to wonder how good things will be for Disney when it starts running on more than just a few cylinders. 

Family watching TV

Image Source: Getty Images.

It's all relative

Expectations are everything. Analysts were bracing for a 24% top-line plunge heading into Thursday afternoon's report. Checking in with a 22% decline is a relative victory. Disney's profit of $0.02 a share from continuing operations -- or $0.32 a share on an adjusted basis -- is a surprising victory. Wall Street pros were modeling a loss of $0.42 a share. 

Beating estimates on both ends of the income statement will often get a stock moving higher, but Disney was hitting all-time highs even before the blowout quarter. The catalyst in this ride has obviously been Disney+. The direct-to-consumer streaming service that launched just 15 months ago is now up to 94.9 million subscribers. 

Average revenue per user is inching lower at Disney+ as it expands into international markets including India where it has to charge a lot less than it would in the U.S. to gain traction. The trend could reverse and start inching higher as Disney rolls out price hikes in some of the world's more established markets. 

Is there too much riding on the Disney+ hype train? The platform is being painted as a game changer, but right now it's not exactly moving the needle at Disney. Multiply its subscriber base by its average revenue per user and you arrive at roughly 7% of Disney's $16.2 billion in quarterly revenue. It's where the media stock clocked in for its previous quarter

Hulu doesn't get a lot of love because it's growing at a much slower clip, but it's generating more than double the revenue of Disney+ with a revenue run rate that is more than 14% of the entertainment behemoth's total revenue. 

Disney+ is small, and it's still three years away from profitability. It may get there sooner. We learned on Thursday afternoon how Disney as a whole can surprise the market with a quicker turn of the corner. Disney+ will also continue to grow beyond just a 7% slice of the revenue mix pie. 

The rest of the lagging segments will get back on track. All of Disney's theme parks won't be closed forever. Disney's studio segment will dominate the box office again once the pandemic is under control. How can it not with its unmatched arsenal of killer franchises? Disney+ is carrying the company right now, but this is still the class act among media stocks that will more than earn its upticks when the time is right. 

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