Disney's Trouble Gets Worse

Cable company Charter Communications wants to pay less money than it has in the past for some Disney programs that run on its cable systems. That move runs the risk of cancellation by its subscribers. It is a game of chicken. In theory, Charter has its subscriber risk Disney will lose Charter payments without successful negotiation. And Charter’s decision to drop some of Disney’s content could go on for weeks or months. (These are America’s most hated companies.)

Disney does not need another division that is in trouble. Its streaming business grew quickly. Subscribers for Disney+ topped 150 million after a November 2019 launch. As of the last reported quarter, that number is slipping. Disney+ was launched for $6.99, which was almost certainly too low to make a profit. Disney traded margins for growth. Its steaming business has lost billions of dollars. It has raised rates, but this could cause many subscribers to cancel. In other words, higher rates are no guarantee of better margins if cancellation rates are high.

Disney+ also has an army of competitors. Netflix and Amazon Prime are at the top of that list. They have many more subscribers than Disney. Netflix is highly profitable. Both companies have been in the market much longer. Due to this competition, Disney’s streaming financials will not be guaranteed to improve.

Whether Disney has other problems is a matter of debate. Anecdotally, attendance at its U.S. theme parks has been dropping, perhaps because of high prices. Whether price reductions by Disney help is too hard to tell.

Certainly, its legacy businesses, like ABC, face the struggles that all businesses in the sector do.

Finally, strikes by actors and writers will partially cripple Disney’s movie studios. It is a final but terrific hit.

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