Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) remains under siege from investors who want to take some control of the company. The reason is that CEO Bob Iger has not turned the entertainment conglomerate around, which has cost investors.
Iger has trouble in his legacy media business, which includes ESPN and ABC. He has trouble in his streaming business, which has lost billions of dollars since its 2019 launch. Disney’s studio segment must do well to offset this. It has not, and last weekend’s failure has worsened the matter.
Disney’s Box Office Disaster
“Wish,” an animated movie released by Disney, was supposed to lead the box office for the three days the industry calls the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. It was expected to bring in as much as $40 million in ticket sales. Instead, it brought in $20 million, behind “Napoleon” at $21 million and “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes” at $29 million. All numbers are from Box Office Mojo and cover domestic ticket sales. (Discover the 20 best animated films of all time!)
The Wall Street Journal reported: “The film’s meager performance came during a holiday stretch that the entertainment giant has dominated in past years.” This includes “Frozen 2” in 2019, which brought in $129 million over the same weekend, and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” at $63 million in 2022.
The One-Legged Stool
Disney is now a one-legged stool in terms of revenue. Its theme parks are a steady performer. Legacy media provided strong revenue. However, a drop in advertising for properties other than Google, Facebook and Amazon has made it hard for ABC to grow revenue. ESPN used to get cable companies to pay for the channel easily. These cable operators have become more frugal as they have been forced to contend with consumers who have turned to streaming instead.
Streaming has been a good business for Amazon and Netflix. For Disney, the story is different. Disney+ launched in 2019 with a price of $6.99 per month. The low price helped subscriber figures to jump to 160 million. That low price by industry standards also led to massive losses, which have not ended.
Long-time raider Nelson Peltz has taken a position in Disney’s stock and wants a say in its future. ValueAct, another institutional investor, has taken a position as well. Iger’s tenure had impressed neither of them.
Disney needs a financial breakthrough in one of its large divisions. Cost cuts across the company will not satisfy critics. Disney’s studio operations are not helping.
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