Disney swings to $460m loss as subscribers continue to decline

Company records a one-time $2.6bn restructuring impairment charge

Disney's revenue in its fiscal third quarter jumped an annual 4 per cent to $22.3 billion. Reuters
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The Walt Disney Company swung to a net loss in its fiscal third quarter, driven by a decrease in subscribers and impairment charges.

The company posted a net loss of $460 million in the three month period ending July 1, compared with a net profit of $1.4 billion in the same quarter last year.

Disney reported 146.1 million Disney+ subscribers in the last three months, a 7.4 per cent quarterly decline. It missed the 151.1 million expected, according to StreetAccount. The company registered a 24 per cent in decline in Disney+ Hotstar subscribers as the company failed to renew the rights to the Indian Premier League cricket matches.

Disney recorded a $2.65 billion one-time restructuring and impairment charge in the previous quarter. A major part of this charge was related to the pulling of content from its streaming platforms and terminating third-party contracts.

Revenue in the third quarter jumped an annual 4 per cent to $22.3 billion, nearly in line with a Refinitiv $22.5 billion estimate.

Shares of the company fell by about 1 per cent at market close but then gained more than 2 per cent in after hours trading as its chief executive Bob Iger said Disney's restructuring and cost cutting are on track.

Robert Iger, chief executive of Walt Disney Company. AFP

“Our results this quarter are reflective of what we have accomplished through the unprecedented transformation we are undertaking at Disney to restructure the company, improve efficiencies and restore creativity to the centre of our business,” Mr Iger said.

“These important changes are creating a more cost-effective, co-ordinated, and streamlined approach to our operations that has put us on track to exceed our initial goal of $5.5 income in savings as well as improved our direct-to-consumer operating income by roughly $1 billion in just three quarters.”

In February, Disney said it would cut about 7,000 jobs as part of a “significant transformation” announced by Mr Iger. The job reductions were part of a targeted $5.5 billion savings across the company.

Mr Iger returned as chief executive in November after a challenging two-year tenure by his chosen successor, Bob Chapek.

He spent more than four decades previously at Disney, including 15 years as its chief executive from 2005 to 2020, overseeing the company's acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, 21st Century Fox and Lucasfilm, which owned the Star Wars franchise.

The company’s parks, experiences and products unit reported a 13 per cent increase in revenue to $8.3 billion in the last quarter.

Its international channels' revenue for the last quarter decreased 20 per cent to $1.2 billion. The company attributed the decrease to lower advertising revenue and, to a lesser extent, an unfavourable foreign exchange impact.

Domestic channels' revenue for the quarter dropped 4 per cent to $5.5 billion and operating income decreased 14 per cent to $1.8 billion.

“Disney delivered a shockingly weak quarter with a big miss in subscriber growth … Disney will have to cut prices from current levels in an effort to stimulate demand and defend its market share, Jesse Cohen, senior analyst at Investing.com, told The National.

“The streaming space is certainly feeling the pinch of persistently high inflation which has forced consumers to make changes to their spending habits as disposable income shrinks.”

Guests wear masks as required to attend the official reopening day of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Saturday, July 11, 2020. Disney reopened two Florida parks, the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, Saturday, with limited capacity and safety protocols in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

Disney said its income from equity investees decreased to $196 million from $228 million, driven by a decrease in advertising revenue. However, direct-to-consumer revenue for the quarter increased 9 per cent to $5.5 billion.

“I believe three businesses will drive the greatest growth and value creation over the next five years … they are our film studios, our parks business and streaming,” Mr Iger said on the conference call.

“The performance of some of our recent films has definitely been disappointing, and we don’t take that lightly … we are focused on improving the quality of the films we have got coming up.”

Guests attend the multimedia screening of Haunted Mansion at Cineworld Leicester Square on Wednesday in London. Getty Images

“Disney must be wary of adopting old principles and practices that allowed it to reach its peak previously as they may no longer be fit for the future,” Matt Bradley, managing director UK South at consultancy Sullivan & Stanley, told The National.

“Emphasis should remain on leveraging [Mr] Iger’s expertise without stifling progress.

“Disney must also ensure that it has a transformation strategy that focuses on constant improvement – it’s important to look inward and reassess every element of the company's structure and operational strategy for enduring success.”

Updated: August 10, 2023, 1:35 PM