Walt Disney Co on Wednesday reported the littlest rise in Disney+ subscriptions since it launched the streaming video service to take on Netflix Inc, missing Wall Street targets and driving shares down nearly 5% after hours.
Profits from Disney’s theme park division fell well in need of analyst projections, despite the quarter being the first time all parks were open since various pandemic closures. Capacity limits remain in place.
The stumble in both the theme parks and streaming divisions highlights the challenges Disney faces in the pandemic. Questions remain about how and when customers will return to public entertainment and whether that limits watching at home.
Disney is banking on new programming next year to increase streaming subscribers. Theme parks will have the benefit of the US opening its borders to several vaccinated international travelers and more U.S. children getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
During the just-ended quarter, Disney+ picked up 2.1 million customers, less than half the subscribers Netflix added in roughly an equivalent period. Analysts had projected Disney+ would add 10.2 million, according to Factset estimates.
Speaking on a call with analysts, Chief Executive Bob Chapek stuck by the company’s previous forecast of 230 million to 260 million Disney+ subscribers by the end of fiscal 2024.
Some investors aren’t convinced Disney will meet that projection, said Haris Anwar, an analyst at Investing.com.
“The company seems to be hitting a roadblock when it involves subscriber growth for its streaming service,” Anwar said. “Investors feel the company could miss its target of reaching 260 million subscribers by 2024, creating doubts that its service can create a significant challenge for the market leader, Netflix.”
The company previewed a wide-ranging slate of streaming programming in development. Chapek said most of the marquee titles from the Disney, Marvel and Star Wars brands would arrive on Disney+ from July to September next year.
“This represents the beginning of the surge of new content shared last December,” he said.
Disney also sees a chance to usher in more subscribers with new programming for preschoolers and is investing in this area, Chapek said.
Disney’s streaming media division, referred to as direct to consumer, continued to lose money because the company purchased new TV shows and films, marketing and other costs. The unit reported an operating loss of $630 million in the quarter.
Overall, the media company posted diluted earnings per share of 37 cents, below analyst projections of 51 cents, in line with IBES data from Refinitiv. Theme park division income reached $640 million, short of Wall Street projections of $942 million.
This week, Disney is offering the first month of Disney+ for $2, down from the standard $8, and other promotions.
On Friday, Disney will debut adventure movie “Jungle Cruise,” Marvel film “Shang-Chi and therefore the Legend of the Ten Rings,” a new “Home Alone” movie and a batch of other programming on streaming.
Disney also missed analysts’ estimates for quarterly revenue, which rose to $18.53 billion within the fourth quarter from $14.71 billion a year earlier.
Net income was $159 million, or 9 cents per share, compared with a loss of $710 million, or 39 cents per share, a year earlier.