Disneyland remains closed but Walt Disney Co. gave investors something to cheer about in its latest quarter as it lost less money than expected and its new streaming service reached more than 70 million subscribers.
Disney shares rose 3.3% to $139.98 in extended trading Thursday even though the company reported a loss of $710 million in the fourth quarter— compared to a $777 million profit a year ago — as revenue fell 23% to $14.71 billion. On an adjusted basis, it lost 20 cents per share.
Analysts had expected a loss of 71 cents per share on revenue of $14.20 billion. It was Disney’s second straight quarterly loss.
“Even with the disruption caused by COVID-19, we’ve been able to effectively manage our businesses while also taking bold, deliberate steps to position our company for greater long-term growth,” CEO Bob Chapek said in a news release.
“The real bright spot has been our direct-to-consumer business, which is key to the future of our company,” he added, referring to the segment that includes Disney+.
According to Chapek, the new streaming service had more than 73 million paid subscribers at the end of the quarter, “far surpassing our expectations in just its first year.” In August, it had 60 million subscribers.
Disney’s other divisions were hit hard by the pandemic, with the company estimating it took a $3.1 billion bite out of fourth-quarter revenue as a whole. Deprived of critical summer months of tourism and moviegoing, operating income in the studio-entertainment division fell 61% and revenue from the parks business declined 61%.
“The quarantine life has accelerated a pivot in the way Disney casts itself to Wall Street, and increasingly how investors see the world’s largest entertainment company,” The Wall Street Journal said. “With movie theaters closed and TV production stalled, Disney’s streaming efforts have become the focus — and promise — of a company otherwise marked by layoffs and unprecedented losses.”
Disney+ isn’t showing a profit yet but the direct-to-consumer division’s operating loss shrank to $580 million in the fourth quarter from $751 million a year ago.