Everything We Just Learned about Disney from Disney
Every three months, executives at The Walt Disney Company host a corporate call wherein they answer questions.
Some of their comments reveal what’s in store for the company in the coming months, and yesterday’s call proved remarkably newsy.
Here’s what we just learned about Disney’s plans for the rest of 2021.
Theme Park Updates Aplenty
If you’ve glanced at MickeyBlog today, you’ve noticed several jaw-dropping articles about changes coming to the parks.
Most of these reveals came straight from Bob Chapek, Disney’s CEO. Chapek sounded unusually chipper, and he had good reason.
Moments before Disney started its earnings call, the CDC dramatically undid many of its recommendations about pandemic safety practices.
Effectively, if you’ve received your vaccination shot(s), you can party like it’s 2019. Everything’s on the table again. You don’t need masks or social distancing.
Earlier in the week, Disney modified some of its park guidelines to reduce social distancing in line queues from six to three feet.
Given some of Chapek’s comments, more changes are in the offing.
At one point, he hinted that Walt Disney World may drop face mask requirements by the end of the summer.
He also revealed that Disney has already increased park capacity and may adjust it even more in the wake of the CDC’s announcement.
What does that mean for you as a potential park guest? That Park Pass you’ve been unable to snag so far might be available now. Go check!
Walt Disney World will add more Park Passes over the next few weeks to account for the increased attendance at the parks.
Chapek confirmed this by stating:
“You’re going to see an immediate increase in the number of folks that we’re able to admit into our parks, through our reservation systems that we recently implemented.”
More Disney Park News
The CEO sounded thrilled about the return of Disneyland, commenting that he and his former boss, Bob Iger, stood on Main Street, U.S.A., on opening day.
Interestingly, the sneaky-big news came from Shanghai. During the interview, we learned that Shanghai Disneyland Resort has done the impossible.
The park is currently celebrating its fifth anniversary, and it’s doing so at fiscal 2019 attendance levels! So, normalcy has already completely returned there.
Disneyland Paris didn’t set a reopening date, but it’s apparently only a short time away from doing so.
Another unexpected note came from Disney’s CFO, Christine McCarthy. She stated that all Disney parks operated at a profit.
You may recall that Disney had set this goal before reopening any parks. The company expected all parks to earn more than the expenses in operating them.
That’s obviously a challenging standard during a pandemic, but Disney pulled it off.
Disney’s upcoming bookings suggest strong performances at Disneyland and Walt Disney World throughout the rest of 2021. People are ready to travel!
The other shocker involves cast member employment numbers. Apparently, 80 percent of furloughed Disney workers have returned to Disney.
That’s a higher number than anyone would have predicted a year ago…and by a lot. People love to work for Disney.
Chapek also answered a good question about how the increased capacity at Walt Disney World should compare to pre-pandemic attendance.
This led to a fascinating comment about how Disney compares all current data to 2019, the last full non-pandemic year.
Apparently, Disney’s internal data suggests that “intent to visit” for the rest of 2021 is in line with 2019 numbers.
That’s legitimately the best possible news about the parks, but Disney no longer relies on them as the company’s financial backbone…
Let’s Talk Disney+
When Disney announced that it would commit to a streaming model as its primary focus, it changed the narrative on earnings calls.
Now, most of the questions involve Disney+, Hulu+, and ESPN+. Those three streaming services reflect the future of Disney revenue generation.
All of them added more subscribers this past quarter. Hulu+ has attained 41.6 million, up from 39.4 million last time.
ESPN+ totals 13.8 million subscribers, which is astounding. The service claimed 12.1 million during the first quarter.
So, subscriptions are up 14 percent. That’s not even the most impressive part, though.
During the fourth quarter of 2019, ESPN+ only had 3.5 million subscribers. Yes, it’s nearly quadrupled in 18 months!
Of course, when we’re talking about subscriber growth, nothing can touch Disney+.
The service didn’t even exist until November of 2019. As of April 3rd, 2021, Disney+ claimed 103.6 million subscribers.
After less than 18 months, Disney+ is already the number two streaming service in North America, trailing only Netflix.
Across the three streaming services, Disney claims 159 million subscribers.
The news wasn’t all sunny, though. The average revenue per user (ARPU) dropped to $3.99 on Disney+.
The executives on the conference call attributed it to Hotstar in India having razor-thin profit margins.
According to Disney, the recent price increases and some other contributing factors will increase the ARPU during the next fiscal quarter.
Many media reports are trumpeting a non-story about subscription numbers missing expectations, which is faulty logic.
The current Disney+ ARPU is a real topic of interest, though. Every dollar of ARPU means another $103.6 million in revenue each month. It matters.
Disney+ and Disney Movie News
The other stories that will interest you all involve Disney’s media empire.
Disney confirmed that Free Guy and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will keep their theatrical release dates of August 13th and September 3rd.
Notably, both movies will maintain a 45-day theatrical release window. You’ll have to wait at least six weeks to watch them at home.
So, Disney has committed to movie theaters again starting in August. Black Widow will be available on Disney Premier on July 9th, though.
Apparently, the Mouse’s studio bosses believe that the pandemic won’t be over by early July but hopefully by mid-August. It’s a bold move.
Chapek noted that both films will ultimately reside on Disney+ once their theatrical window ends.
Also, he added that Disney+ remains on pace for 230-260 million subscribers by 2024. We should be halfway there within the next six months.
Similarly, Disney’s film studios are approaching pre-pandemic levels with their production volume.
In other words, the Disney film pipeline has gotten a bit thin, but the studio’s ready to replenish.
Finally, in a story I’m tracking because I care, Chapek responded to a question about Disney’s interest in NFL Sunday Ticket.
The CEO did all but winked his eye in acknowledging Disney’s interest in this wildly valuable asset.
Disney taking over NFL Sunday Ticket is the best possible thing that could happen for football fans…and I think it’s gonna happen.
Feature Image Rights: (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)