Everything We Learned From Today’s Disney Earnings Call

STAR WARS: STILL UNTITLED

The Walt Disney Company held its quarterly earnings call today, and as expected, we learned a little bit from CEO Bob Iger and CFO Christine McCarthy about the company's strategy moving forward.

Most of the call, understandably, focused on the still in-progress 21st Century Fox acquisition and the impending launch of the Disney+ streaming service. Much talk of revenues, spends, and so on, as you'd expect from a dialogue between venture capitalists and two of the most powerful people in the entertainment world. But there were some other nuggets of information that may prove interesting to BMD readers:

  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi was very successful, both at the box office and as a motivator for merchandising revenue. So successful was it, in fact, that it (along with Thor: Ragnarok and Coco) was cited as a reason why it's difficult to compare the most recent quarter with the same quarter last year. Well done, boycotters.
  • Deadpool will stay R-rated, and future Fox productions under Disney won't be prevented from being so, with Disney being careful to brand them separately to its own films. Hulu, of which Disney will own 60% following the Fox acquisition, will likely be the streaming destination for R-rated and adult-oriented content. 
  • Disney will license content from other studios for the launch of Disney+. More licensing may follow, though the weighting will be heavily towards Disney-created content. Iger compared licensing content for the service to licensing brands for Disney parks. That would have been a good comparison, if the examples he cited - Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Avatar - hadn't been subsequently purchased outright by Disney (with Avatar pending the Fox deal).
  • The company expects to lose $150 million this year in licensing fees (like Netflix licensing the Marvel brand and Star Wars films, for example) due to consolidating its IP back to Disney+.
  • Disney theatrical films will maintain their theatrical release window, rather than compressing that window to have material launch sooner on Disney+. Recently, a rumour had circled that Frozen 2 would launch day-and-date on the streaming service alongside its theatrical release, which can now be pretty comprehensively stamped out. 
  • That said: Captain Marvel will be the first theatrical movie to stream exclusively on Disney+. 
  • The world's most family-friendly entertainment brand will not be getting into the sports gambling business. Sorry, utterly deluded investor.
  • Somehow, a rumour had circulated that the company would announce the title of Star Wars: Episode IX in the call. But...they didn't. Roll on this year's Star Wars Experience, I guess.

That's about it, folks: confirmation that Disney will continue to be an increasingly monopolistic pop-cultural juggernaut.

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