Disney misses on earnings thanks to ESPN subscriber loss
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Disney reported disappointing fiscal Q4 earnings that significantly miss on EPS and revenues, falling short of analysts' expectations.

According to the fiscal Q4 earnings reported yesterday after the close, Walt Disney's (NYSE: Walt Disney Company [DIS]) earnings per share were at $1.10 and missed the estimates by 8% or 6 cents whereas revenues dropped 2.7% to $13.14 billion, short of estimates of $13.52 billion. This quarter was a rare miss for Disney as its operating income declined in every segment and was matched by sluggish TV business and declining engagement with consumer products.

Business Insider adds that Disney's cable networks were also not in the best shape this quarter, with the operating income having a 13% YOY drop at $1.4 billion. On top of that, proceeds from Disney's iconic entertainment parks were also lower thanks to weak attendance at Disneyland park and resort in Hong Kong and Paris. Yet, Florida's Disney World Resort showed some sales growth.

Shortly after the quarterly results announcement, Disney's shares lost 3.3% in the after-hours trading yesterday. The company attributes the earnings miss to the falling ad revenues from ESPN, Disney's cable network.

"Operating income at Cable Networks decreased $207 million to $1.4 billion for the quarter due to decreases at ESPN and the Disney Channels, partially offset by an increase at Freeform. The decrease at ESPN reflected lower advertising and affiliate revenue and higher programming and production costs," the company said in statement.

ESPN's lower advertising revenue was caused by fewer impressions and lower rates, added the company. Next to that, ESPN is struggling with the shift of consumer attention from cable networks to streaming services like Netflix (NASDAQ: Netflix [NFLX]) and Amazon Prime (NASDAQ: Amazon.com [AMZN]).. Disney recently invested in a streaming provider BAMTech to tackle that challenge and support ESPN network. The company said that ESPN's subscriber losses were not a problem anymore, yet Nielsen's estimates showed that ESPN had lost over 620,000 subscribers within one month, as reported by Investor's Business Daily.

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However, despite the slugging Q4 performance, Disney CEO Bob Iger is optimistic about the company's future. He told CNBC that his company was going through a "transition period" at the moment and investors would see growth again in the next fiscal year and in a long-term perspective. The experts say that this is quite a bold projection, considering that this is Disney's fourth quarter falling short of Wall Street's estimates.

Iger said that 2017 is going to be an "anomaly" year with only moderate growth whereas 2018 will bring robust gains. In turn, Wall Street predicts Disney's EPS to grow 5% next year and 11% in 2018, with a tendency to slow down after that. Well, this quarter's earnings make it hard to believe in Disney's ambitious plans for the future but, as Bob Iger said in the conference call, lately we are off in terms of predicting outcomes.

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