The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DISC) stock was down more than 5% in after-hours trading Tuesday This after a rare miss on revenue and earnings for Q2 from the media conglomerate, home to blockbuster movie hits like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Zootopia and The Jungle Book.
In point of fact, movies were not the problem. Analysts noticed and asked about the television side of the business. To be fair, Disney isn’t the only media company faced with technological challenges and the meltdown of traditional cable bundle revenue.
Earnings Picture Mixed
Adjusted earnings were $1.36 per share on $12.97 billion in revenue. According to Thomson Reuters, Wall Street expected $1.40 per share on $13.19 billion. It wasn’t all bad news, of course. Adjusted EPS were up 11% from the same quarter a year ago and sales climbed 4%
As for that film unit, studio entertainment brought in $2.06 billion, easily blowing past expectations of $1.9 billion. Sales were up 22% from a year ago and operating income grew 27% to $542 million.
A Revenue Problem
In addition to weaker than expected theme park revenue, Disney suffered from a decline in subscriptions and advertising revenue at its ESPN sports channel.
Much of this can be attributed to “cord cutting” by younger viewers who would rather “stream” than view on cable and satellite TV. As a result, revenue in Disney’s cable networks business fell 1.86% to $3.96 billion.
For its part, Disney attributed much of the drop off to a timing problem with college football playoff games.
Other Broadcasters Losing Viewers
Traditional television viewing is fading and, by some accounts, the pace is accelerating. Nielsen C3 ratings in April reported a 7% viewership decline in Q1 of this year, versus a 6% drop in the fourth quarter 2015, according Bernstein Research. This despite higher than usual interest on TV news channels due to the political season.
In addition to Disney cable, which was down 13%, Disney-owned ABC was down 16%, Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ:CMCSAC)-owned NBC was off 30% and Twenty-First Century Fox (TSX:FOXAC) was off 23%. CBS Corp. (NYSE:CBSC) alone, among broadcast networks was up 18%, thanks to the Super Bowl.
It Might Get Worse
As viewers abandon traditional television, so do advertisers and the revenue they bring. Some are headed to the Internet, others to alternative venues. One such venue is a location based video network called GSTV in Detroit.
GSTV co-founder and CEO, David Leider told Woo Trader his 10-year old company, which specializes in 5-minute news, sports, business and entertainment television programming at gas station pumps, has grown from a 5 station pilot in 2006 to 5,000 locations in 48 states delivering 70 million viewers per month. All this for advertisers ranging from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMTC) to McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE:MCDC) and many others.
If those numbers sound impressive, they are. Leider points out that current weekly GSTV viewership is more than the number of people watching 99.9% of all programming on television.