As 2020 comes to a close, The Walt Disney Company held its quarterly earnings call. Despite huge losses, the attitude conveyed by all speaking executives was one of optimism and stability.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek began his opening statement with the following:
“As we close out the fourth quarter and reflect back on the year, I think we all agree it’s been a year unlike any other in our lifetimes and certainly in the history of The Walt Disney Company. Still, I’m proud to say we have been steadfast in effectively managing our businesses under enormously difficult circumstances. We haven’t just persevered during these tough times, we’ve also taken a number of deliberate steps [and we] position our company for greater long-term growth…
The impressive resilience that [we have] demonstrated, while looking past today’s challenges, and set the stage for an even brighter future and is a direct reflection of our outstanding team. They’ve done and continue to do an admirable job balancing the needs of our Cast, our shareholders, and our Guests, of course.”
Here are some of the highlights and success stories that help instill that confidence in Disney’s executives going forward.
Disney+ and Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer Business
In his opening statement, Chapek praised the unprecedented success of Disney+ as well as Disney’s overall direct-to-consumer business. Only a year old, Chapek reported that Disney+ already has 73 million subscribers — an increase of 16 million subscribers since the third quarter — and he credited the success to the strength of Disney’s IP.
Disney execs also spoke confidently about the success of premiering Mulan on Premier Access but confirmed that Disney/Pixar’s upcoming feature-length film, Soul, will premiere on Disney+ for no additional cost.
Disney+ will also expand into Latin America starting tomorrow, November 13, and Disney Hotstar in India was reported as counting for over a quarter of Disney’s subscriber base.
Outside of Disney+, Chapek reported an increase in ESPN+ subscriptions also saw an increase.
On the broadcasting side, Chapek also announced that ABC was ranked #1, and ESPN saw a 26% increase in ad revenue.
Disney Parks, Experiences and Products
Disneyland Resort has yet to reopen, Disneyland Paris has closed a second time, and Disney Cruise Line will remain shuttered for the remainder of 2020 — and an overall loss of over $1 billion was reported. But there are still some victories that not just showed the profitability of the Disney Parks, but also the survivability.
Disney CFO Christine McCarthy stated, “We are pleased to report that Walt Disney World Shanghai Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland all achieved a net positive contribution in the quarter which means we generated revenue that exceeded the variable costs associated with reopening.” She also confirmed that Walt Disney World Resort is 77% booked for the holiday season and Thanksgiving week is nearly at capacity.
The Disney executives also announced during the webcast that they have increased the capacity of Walt Disney World Resort to 35% of what the pre-pandemic capacity level was.
“People have shown a willingness to visit our parks, which I believe is a testament to the fact that they feel confident in the measures we’ve taken,” Chapek said, in discussing not just Disney World but the Disney theme parks that have opened around the globe. “We’re very encouraged by the positive news earlier this week on the progress of a potential vaccine.”
Disney’s CEO also praised Disney World’s ability to adapt to the uncertain times and prove useful outside of tourism by hosting the NBA and the MLS for the remainder of their respective seasons at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
“I’m proud to say that we were successfully able to host the NBA and MLS at Walt Disney World in Orlando. It’s been a huge undertaking and a great achievement just consider the NBA for example 94 days 22 teen 172 games players broadcast Partners referee media support staff and Disney employees all in the bubble.”
Disney Cruise Line
In the matter of cruising, Bob Chapek referred to the CDC’s new guidelines as finally seeing “a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“I think we have an opportunity to create sort of a Disney bubble, he said, “on each one of our cruise ships… we’re seeing extremely strong demand in the back half of fiscal year ’21 and all of ’22… That then creates the demand for the new ships.”
Chapek confirmed that Disney is still looking to take possession of its new Triton Class cruise ships starting with the Disney Wish in the summer of 2022, followed by the other two ships in 2024 and 2025.
Chapek is also expecting the ships to be back in service within the next six months hoping “the world will be back to normal by then” which would then release the demand to fill up the ships.
We will continue to update Inside the Magic with the latest information when it comes to Disney Parks, Disney+, and Disney Cruise Line. Overall, though the company recorded losses this year, Disney moves forward with optimism.