This has been a momentous quarter for Disney, between an overhaul of the movie division (see my prior blog), a major acquisition, and progress towards theme park expansion in China and a new production facility. Disney's always considered a bellwether of advertising trends and consumer spending, so its TV advertising business and theme park revenues will be in the spotlight. The studio, now in the midst of a restructuring, has seen revenue decline over the past year, so we're sure to hear about plans to turn that around.
Analysts expect earnings of 40 cents per share, compared to 43 cents in the year-ago quarter on revenue of about $9.26 billion, down slightly from last year. The media networks division, bolstered by the stellar ESPN brand, plus the resilient Disney Channel, is expected to hold up the best on strong affiliate fees and stronger ad revenues. One key question about this division is whether auto advertising, which ESPN is particularly exposed to, is starting to rebound.
What's next for the theme parks?
The Chinese government has approved the next step in building a theme park in Shanghai, which is sure to prompt plenty of analyst questions on the earnings call about the timeline and what kind of financial impact a new park would have. Strategic, aggressive pricing has kept theme-park attendance very high in the U.S.; we'll see if the discounting has started to ease. Earlier this week The Telegraph reported that Euro Disney has had been struggling with the economic downturn and will be a drag on results. The consumer products division, Disney's smallest, had some exciting news this past quarter with a new strategy and look for its Disney stores.
And of course the studio will be in the spotlight.
In the past quarter the media giant announced its acquisition of Marvel Entertainment and announced a new streaming agreement with Netflix. There's also been talk about a new technology Disney is developing called "Keychest" that would allow consumers to access digital movies and TV shows that they've purchased from multiple mobile devices. We'll see whether DVD sales are declining, putting pressure on new revenue streams through technology like "Keychest" to fill a void.
As I wrote earlier today, the studio is orienting towards a digitally driven future. And now that it is distributing all this additional content, from Marvel and Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks, it makes sense to focus in on Disney brands and franchises.
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