Despite what many investors consider relatively good earnings news, shares of Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) have sold down 21% this year. Comparably, its weakest rival, Paramount is off only 14%, despite long odds that it can become a leading multimedia company.
Disney’s problems rest on two things. The first is that streaming has become an increasingly competitive industry. The second problem is the remaining deep skepticism about the skills of CEO Bob Chapek, who should be on many lists of worst CEOs of a large American company for 2022.
The company’s run in the streaming business is impressive. Across all its streaming services, it has 221 million subscribers, which is about the same as former industry leader Netflix. Disney plans to raise prices for its streaming products. However, concerns linger about whether any of the largest media companies can sharply increase subscriber counts ever again.
The streaming industry continues to bulge with new entrants. In the meantime, Apple has lurked as the likely major competitor in the future. It has a hardware installed base of as many as a billion devices. This is a built-in walled garden for streaming products.
Chapek still faces a wall of doubters. The most recent is hedge fund Third Point, which has pressed to spin out sports channel ESPN and cut costs at the parent company. Despite Third Point’s tiny 0.4% stake in Disney, some of the broader market has taken its suggestions seriously, another sign of doubts about Chapek’s way forward.
The press and some on Wall Street continue to make comparisons between Chapek and his predecessor, Robert Iger, who is considered the man who built the modern Disney. The company’s stock surged over the course of his leadership.
Among public companies, the single most important barometer is stock price. The recent performance of Disney has been abysmal.
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