Walt Disney Co. To Report 2nd-Quarter Earnings Amid The Coronavirus Crisis

May 4, 2020
Originally published on May 5, 2020 6:35 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Tomorrow, The Walt Disney Company holds its first earnings calls since the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. One of the world's largest media companies, Disney relies heavily on people showing up to its theme parks, resorts and movies, all of which have come to a screeching halt, as NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Part of what makes Disney so beloved is also what makes it so vulnerable right now. Live in-person experiences make up a huge part of its business.

JESSICA REIF EHRLICH: Disney has a bullseye on its back in this crisis.

BLAIR: Jessica Reif Ehrlich is an analyst with Bank of America. She says one positive for the company is Disney's new streaming service, which, today, added "Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER")

OSCAR ISAAC: (As Poe) What are you doing there, 3PO?

ANTHONY DANIELS: (As C-3PO) Taking one last look, sir.

BLAIR: Within five months of launching, Disney Plus reached 50 million subscribers worldwide, exceeding the company's expectations.

REIF EHRLICH: Disney Plus has done well as it's rolled out, but it's an area of investment not an area of profit at the moment.

BLAIR: Another issue likely to come up in tomorrow's earnings call - how Disney will address its sports network ESPN. Subscribers are paying a lot for something they're not getting. John Hodulik is an analyst with UBS.

JOHN HODULIK: There's growing pushback from some distributors and also among politicians that consumers who are becoming increasingly hard-pressed - even the economy - shouldn't have to pay for live sports that they're not getting.

BLAIR: Given all the uncertainty caused by the outbreak, Disney's future teeters on some big unknowns. When will venues reopen? When will people feel comfortable in crowds?

HODULIK: Our view is that it's going to take some time. When the economy reopens, the large venues - stadiums and theme parks - are going to be the last to open.

BLAIR: Before the pandemic, Disney's stock was at an all-time high. In 2019, a record seven Disney movies brought in more than a billion dollars each. Jessica Reif Ehrlich believes the passion people have for Disney will help it get through this difficult period.

REIF EHRLICH: Most important, they have brands that matter, and they resonate with consumers on a global basis.

BLAIR: Ehrlich says a lot will depend on how Disney manages those businesses coming out of the pandemic.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.