The Walt Disney Company reported its first quarter earnings of 2024 on Wednesday and with it came several “significant announcements that represent important and exciting steps forward,” according to Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger.
“Just one year ago, we outlined an ambitious plan to return to a period of sustained growth and shareholder value creation, and our strong performance this past quarter demonstrates we have turned the corner and entered a new era,” Iger said during his post-earnings remarks on Wednesday.
Here are some of the announcements made by Disney:
- As announced on Tuesday, the full suite of ESPN’s channels will now be available direct to consumer as part of a new joint venture with Fox and Warner Brothers Discovery to create a new streaming sports service, launching this fall. This brings together content from across all of these companies’ combined assets, including all the major professional sports leagues and college sports.
- By fall of 2025, Disney will offer ESPN as a stand-alone streaming option with innovative digital features, creating a one-stop sports destination unlike anything available in the marketplace today.
- ESPN is also adding a sports icon to its lineup, with Coach Nick Saban joining the network as an on-air commentator later this year.
- Disney will release a feature-length animated sequel to Moana, which joins a very robust lineup of upcoming theatrical releases.
- Disney is entering into an exciting relationship with Epic Games, acquiring a small equity stake and launching a groundbreaking new games and entertainment universe that brings together Disney’s beloved brands and franchises with the hugely popular Fortnite.
- Disney+ will become the exclusive streaming home of Taylor Swift’s historic concert film, Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour (Taylor’s Version).
- Disney’s Board declared a cash dividend of $0.45 a share payable in July 2024 and Disney is targeting to repurchase up to $3 billion in aggregate of Disney’s common stock in fiscal 2024.
“What’s clear is that the important transformation we undertook last year is bearing fruit,” Iger added. “And looking at our results this quarter, we can say with confidence our strategy is working.”
Making ESPN Into the Preeminent Digital Sports Brand
ESPN was a major focus Wednesday with a number of key announcements that showcased the evolution of the sports network. Iger noted that ESPN “continues to deliver meaningfully for the company and will be a key value driver in the future.”
During Wednesday’s remarks, Iger delved deeper into the big news announced on Tuesday regarding the company’s joint venture with Fox and Warner Brothers Discovery to create a new streaming sports service.
“Ultimately, our mission is to make ESPN into the preeminent digital sports brand, reaching as many sports fans as possible and giving them even more ways to access the programming they love, in whatever way best suits their needs,” Iger said. “One way will be through the new streaming sports service coming this fall that we announced yesterday in conjunction with Fox and Warner Brothers Discovery. This service will bring together our collective portfolios of sports channels and direct-to-consumer services – on a non-exclusive basis – providing consumers with more of the sports they want in a single place.”
He added that “It’s important for us to serve the needs of consumers looking for a seamless way to access an aggregated collection of sports-centric content, including capturing fans moving away from the full cable and satellite bundle. And it’s an attractive business proposition for ESPN, allowing us to command per unit economics in line with established market rates for our sports content, just like we do with any streaming or linear service where we offer our programming.”
Iger said another exciting option available to sports fans will come by fall of 2025 when the company makes “the full suite of ESPN’s channels available as a stand-alone and highly interactive digital destination.”
“Not only will consumers be able to stream their favorite live games and studio programming, they’ll also have access to engaging digital integrations like ESPN Bet and fantasy sports, e-commerce features, and a deep array of sports stats — all of which we know will be incredibly compelling to younger sports fans in particular,” he said. “It will also have very robust personalization features.”
Finally, Iger noted that “this is all part of the ambitious streaming strategy we’ve been building. From our acquisition of 21st Century Fox that expanded our vast content library and strong pool of creative talent, to the launch of Disney+ as the home to a century of content, to securing full control of Hulu and expanding our streaming offerings to reach greater audiences, to our significant investments in technology, and now taking significant steps toward ESPN’s streaming future.”
Streaming and Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour (Taylor’s Version) on Disney+
Speaking of the company’s streaming businesses, Iger noted that “more than anything, the success of our streaming services is a testament to the amazing content we create.”
“With six of the top ten most streamed movies across all streaming platforms in the U.S. in 2023, our best-in-class storytelling continues to entertain millions of people,” he said.
Iger also said that the company is “proud of our recent Disney branded programming successes,” such as Percy Jackson and the Olympians, which premiered on both Disney+ and Hulu in December, and has become “a bona fide hit.”
“Books from the series returned to the #1 slot on the New York Times Best Seller list, following the debut of the Disney+ series,” Iger added. “And I’m thrilled to share that we just picked up a second season.”
Iger also revealed that Taylor Swift—one of the biggest pop culture artists in the world—is exclusively bringing her blockbuster concert film to Disney+ on March 15.
“When her blockbuster concert film debuts on Disney+ on March 15, it will feature the concert in its entirety, including the song cardigan and four additional acoustic songs which were not in the theatrical or digital purchase release of the film,” he announced. “We know audiences are going to absolutely love the chance to relive the electrifying Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour (Taylor’s Version), whenever they want, on Disney+.”
Robust Studio Slate and Moana Animated Sequel
On the studio side, Iger pointed out that the company has an “an incredibly robust slate of new releases as we continue revitalizing our creativity.” That includes Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, Inside Out 2, Deadpool 3, Alien: Romulus, and Mufasa: The Lion King this year alone.
Disney will also release a feature-length animated sequel to Moana this November, Iger revealed.
“This was originally developed as a series, but we were impressed with what we saw, and we knew it deserved a theatrical release,” he added. “The original Moana film from 2016 recently crossed 1 billion hours streamed on Disney+ and was the most streamed movie of 2023 on any platform in the U.S.”
Iger went on to say that “along with the live-action version of the original film that’s currently in development, Moana remains an incredibly popular franchise, and we can’t wait to give you more of Moana and Maui when Moana 2 comes to theaters this November.”
After mentioning Disney’s slate of upcoming films such as Captain America: Brave New World, Fantastic Four, and Avatar 3, Iger pointed out that these films will “not only reach global audiences in theaters, but as we’ve consistently demonstrated, they will become important anchors on our global streaming platforms, driving subscriptions and engagement while also continuing to fuel growth in our Experiences businesses.”
“After all, one of the things that truly sets Disney apart is our unique ability to turn top quality IP into top quality experiences, leading to significant growth,” he added.
Epic’s Fortnite and a New Disney Universe
Iger also announced that Disney is entering into a relationship with Epic Games to create “a transformational games and entertainment universe that integrates Disney’s world-class storytelling into Epic’s cultural phenomenon, Fortnite, enabling consumers to play, watch, create, and shop for both digital and physical goods.”
“This marks Disney’s biggest entry ever into the world of video games, and offers significant opportunities for growth and expansion,” he said. “The new immersive universe will allow fans to unleash their own creativity and experience the Disney stories and worlds that they love in groundbreaking new ways.”
Iger continued by saying that younger audiences are huge consumers of video games, and that “this new universe from Disney and Epic provides us with a tremendous opportunity to not only meet more consumers where they are, but to allow more audiences to cultivate a bond with Disney’s iconic brands and franchises.”
Iger concluded by saying that “looking at the renewed strength of our businesses this quarter – from Sports, to Entertainment, to Experiences – the stage is now set for significant growth and success.”
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