Disney’s fourth quarter earnings were a mix of good and bad news for the company.
The good: the company added 12.1 million new Disney+ subscribers, for a total of 164.2 million global subscribers, exceeding Wall Street’s expectations.
The bad: Disney missed projections for other aspects of its business, including revenue. More importantly, its streaming business has been costly. It lost $1.5 billion in the quarter, compared to a loss of $630 million in last year’s fourth quarter.
Revenue for the quarter was $20.1 billion, up 9% from last year. Analysts, however, were expecting over $21 billion. Profit was $162 million, which was up 1% compared to last year.
The results sent Disney’s stock down roughly 10% in after-hours trading.
“The rapid growth of Disney+ in just three years since launch is a direct result of our strategic decision to invest heavily in creating incredible content and rolling out the service internationally,” Bob Chapek, Disney’s CEO, said in a letter to investors on Tuesday. “We expect our [direct to consumer] operating losses to narrow going forward.”
Chapek added that the streaming unit will still “achieve profitability in fiscal 2024.” However, he added an important note of caution to that promise by saying “assuming we do not see a meaningful shift in the economic climate.”
“By realigning our costs and realizing the benefits of price increases and our Disney+ ad-supported tier coming December 8, we believe we will be on the path to achieve a profitable streaming business that will drive continued growth and generate shareholder value long into the future,” he said.
Disney’s earnings come at an inflection point for how investors measure success in the streaming world.
For many years, Wall Street’s focus was on how much and how quickly a streaming service could grow. That’s changed this year as services like Netflix received more scrutiny when it comes to profitability.
Disney appears to be under the same microscope.
Growth in its streaming unit was solid this quarter, with the company totaling more than 235 million subscribers across Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+. Even so, its stock sank on Tuesday evening due to the extent of those losses.
Ultimately, the costs associated with Disney’s streaming endeavors were behind the company’s decision to increase its prices earlier this year. It’s also introducing a new ad-supported subscription tier to offset those losses.
The Disney+ premium tier, which comes without commercials, jumped by $3 to $10.99 per month, the company announced in August. That’s the largest price increase for the platform since its November 2019 debut.
Its new ad plan will debut in the United States on December 8 at a cost of $7.99 a month. That price point is what consumers were paying for Disney+ without the ads.
Elsewhere in Disney’s media kingdom, the company’s parks, experiences and products division reported revenue of $7.4 billion — a 36% boost from last year.
That’s impressive considering that coronavirus restrictions have hit Shanghai Disneyland and Disney World in Florida briefly closed due to Hurricane Ian in September.
When it comes to its movies, Disney has a lot to look forward to at the box office. Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and “Avatar: The Way of Water,” potentially two of the biggest blockbusters of the year, hit theaters over the next two months.