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Tue, Jan. 12, 6:51 PM
- ESPN (DIS +1.5%) absorbs a bit of a blow today, as its second national championship game in the College Football Playoff era shed viewers compared to last year.
- The game (a 45-40 Alabama win over Clemson) averaged 25M viewers, a dip from last year's 33.6M viewers (which, to be fair, was a record cable telecast).
- The network came in for some criticism after boldly sticking to a plan to run its national semifinal games (Alabama-Michigan State and Clemson-Oklahoma) on New Year's Eve, where they showed 34% and 44% ratings declines respectively.
- Surprisingly, the title game drew fewer viewers than the college basketball championship final between Duke and Wisconsin (which pulled 28.3M viewers last spring).
- The game did generate more than 2M tweets generating a unique audience of 9.7M Twitter users, ESPN said.
Tue, Jan. 12, 4:34 PM
- After years of construction, Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) will open its $5.5B Shanghai Disney Resort on June 16, making a self-imposed first-half deadline, The Wall Street Journal reports.
- The company had previously planned for a 2015 launch before ratcheting back expectations to the first half of 2016 amid significant construction, political and cultural challenges.
- The announcement itself is a bit late but may reflect the hurdle of coordinating an announcement with China's officials, the WSJ says.
- Major construction on attractions is near completion and 2,000 of 10,000 needed employees are hired, so hiring and training will likely dominate the next several months.
- Disney shares gained 1.5% today; they're off 0.6% so far after hours.
Tue, Jan. 5, 8:18 PM
- Starz (STRZA -1.4%) is the channel with the pay-TV rights to galaxy-buster Star Wars: The Force Awakens -- and on the cheap, according to The New York Post.
- The channel is paying a bargain $17.5M for the rights, The Post reports, based on an expiring deal with Walt Disney (DIS -2%) that covered movies in theaters through 2015's end.
- Disney has a new distribution deal with Netflix, who likely would have had to pay $40M for the rights, a source says. Starz, meanwhile, usually has to pay about $4M per hour of original programming.
- Netflix does get to stream The Force Awakens -- in Canada, and will pick up later Star Wars films in America.
- “The benefit to Starz is it’s a sleepy brand and it will stir some excitement," says Albert Fried's Rich Tullo. "It’s like having a Super Bowl to launch other programming.”
- Previously: Disney -2.2% as Macquarie downgrades, Cowen sees tougher 2016 (Jan. 05 2016)
Tue, Jan. 5, 12:04 PM
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens is set to pass Avatar and become the top domestic grossing movie of all time today -- but investing is an expectations game and sometimes historically good is not quite good enough, as Macquarie is downgrading Disney (DIS -2.2%) to Neutral and Cowen says goodness was already baked in.
- While the film is currently charging through cash registers worldwide, Macquarie's Tim Nollen says its goodness and hype are already behind it, and the company's film slate and park potential (depending on Shanghai) are well known, leaving Disney to deal with lingering worries about cord-cutting at ESPN. He prefers CBS or Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) among media stocks.
- Meanwhile, Cowen analysts are bumping estimates to account for Star Wars but note the market has sold the news, with Disney down 10% since the day before it came out. Not only is ESPN a lingering question, but "blockbuster saturation" makes for new film challenges as well.
- While Cowen's Doug Creutz and Stephen Glagola expect solid hits in the coming year from Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory and Star Wars spinoff Rogue One, "we are less convinced that other upcoming big-budget films such as Zootopia and Doctor Strange can maintain Disney’s hot streak at the box office given the competitive environment, and worry that studio earnings may be hitting an unsustainable peak."
Mon, Jan. 4, 3:51 PM
- With Star Wars: The Force Awakens (DIS -2.2%) trucking toward Avatar's domestic box office record following a $90M weekend, there were still slimmer pickings for competitors who nonetheless pursued more holiday moviegoers.
- Paramount's Daddy's Home (VIA -2.1%, VIAB -1.2%) held down the No. 2 spot for the second weekend and actually held a lot of its audience, dropping from a first-weekend $38.7M to $29.2M and adding up to $93.9M in its cumulative take.
- Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy Sisters (CMCSA -1.1%) showed some strength in its third week as well, holding up with $12.8M for the No. 4 spot ($62.9M total), and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (FOX -2.4%, FOXA -2.2%) drew $11.8M for the No. 5 position ($67.4M total). Meanwhile, Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight (Weinstein Co.) went wide at the No. 3 spot with $15.7M total.
- Elsewhere, while U.S. theaters booked a record year of $11.01B, global box office hit a record $38B in 2015, Rentrak says, with China up nearly 50% Y/Y to $6.77B -- another data point setting up tough comps for 2016.
- Previously: Exhibitor stocks whacked after 2016 U.S. box forecasts taken lower (Jan. 04 2016)
Dec. 31, 2015, 4:05 PM
- Hollywood has capped off a record year of just over $11B at the box office -- with a little help at the end from some Star Warriors -- and the spoils aren't evenly divided between studios, as Universal has pulled off a historic hit year.
- A boost from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and its record-smashing performance pushed receipts past the $10.9B previous record, from 2013, by 1.5%. The $11B-plus was up 7.3% Y/Y.
- With final numbers still coming in, admissions look flat, but higher ticket prices are providing a revenue boost.
- Universal (CMCSA -0.4%) and Walt Disney (DIS -1.1%) drove the year with dominating performances, while Paramount (VIA +1.7%, VIAB +0.9%), Fox (FOX -0.4%, FOXA -0.4%), Sony (SNE -0.4%) and Lions Gate (LGF +0.1%) all declined Y/Y.
- Universal's performance came from several of the year's biggest hits, notably Jurassic World, Furious 7, Minions, Pitch Perfect 2 and Fifty Shades of Grey. For its part, aside from an in-progress record push by Star Wars (about to surpass Jurassic World's domestic gross), Disney also put Avengers: Age of Ultron and Inside Out into the year's top five. Both of those drew more than $350M at home.
- Moviegoers who crave more original screenplays may end up disappointed, if studios learn any lesson from this record year: Seven of the top 10 films were sequels and remakes, and the top two (Jurassic World and Star Wars) are from franchises dating to 1993 and 1977 respectively.
Dec. 30, 2015, 5:25 PM
- Nielsen has awarded its TV series ratings crown for 2015, and football is still the king.
- Sunday Night Football on NBC (CMCSA -1.5%) drew 23.3M viewers to top the charts among regularly scheduled series ahead of a pair of CBS (CBS -1.1%) shows. The Big Bang Theory and NCIS drew 21.1M viewers and 20.9M viewers respectively to take the next two spots for the Tiffany network.
- A cable monster was fourth: The Walking Dead (AMCX -1.8%) pulled 19.7M viewers.
- Unsurprisingly, football dominated the individual-show performances, marking nine of the top 10 programs (the uninvited guest was ABC's (DIS -0.7%) broadcast of the Oscars).
- The rest of the top 10 series: No. 5, Empire on Fox (FOX -0.9%, FOXA -1%); No. 6, Thursday Night Football (CBS, NFL Network); No. 7, NCIS: New Orleans on CBS; No. 8, Sunday Night Fooball Pre-Kick on NBC; No. 9, Blue Bloods on CBS; and No. 10, Dancing with the Stars on ABC.
Dec. 21, 2015, 2:40 PM
- While other films were a little harder to locate amid a record-breaking weekend at home and abroad for Star Wars, there were still box-office scraps to be fought over, and Chipmunks got most of them.
- The makers of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (FOX -0.7%, FOXA -0.4%) deliberately aimed for a set of moviegoers who might be younger than Star Wars' PG-13 rating, and took in $14.4M for the No. 2 spot.
- Meanwhile, Universal's (CMCSA -0.2%) inexpensive comedy Sisters (a film reuniting Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) drew $13.4M for the No. 3 position.
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (LGF +0.1%) was No. 4 with $5.6M and Creed (TWX -0.5%) No. 5 with $5.1M. Mockingjay has a five-week domestic total of $254.4M, while Creed has grossed $87.9M in four weeks. Pixar's The Good Dinosaur (DIS -1.5%) drew $4.2M to total $96.6M in its fourth week.
- While many films dodged Star Wars' juggernaut release, next Christmas weekend is more crowded, with a number of new releases elbowing in for some holiday dollars alongside some expansions of award contenders from limited coastal releases.
- Previously: Mixed reaction from exhibitor stocks to Star Wars opening (Dec. 21 2015)
- Previously: 'Star Wars' has $238M opening for the ages (Dec. 20 2015)
Dec. 18, 2015, 5:23 PM
- Disney (DIS -4%) -- carefully tracking the ebbs and flows of theatrical screenings and added showtimes for Star Wars: The Force Awakens -- now believes that today it will become the first to top $100M at the box office in one day, and is tracking to $200M-plus for the weekend through Sunday.
- The one-day total would surpass Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($91.1M) for best opening day, and if Disney's expectations hold, the weekend would threaten Jurassic World's $208.8M for best opening weekend ever.
- Records are tricky to nail down when films open on a roll, as Star Wars has done over the past 48 hours. An overseas opening (in about a dozen markets) of $14M gave way to $57M (also a record-breaker) in Thursday previews.
- The 4,134 theaters that are opening Star Wars in the U.S. and Canada is a December record. It's now playing in 44 international markets.
- After a tough day following a downgrade by BTIG, shares are up 0.6% so far after hours.
- Previously: Disney -3.3% as BTIG downgrades to Sell, pointing to ESPN (Dec. 18 2015)
Dec. 18, 2015, 4:18 PM
- U.S. studios will head to Europe for a January hearing over antitrust concerns that were initially raised with formal charges in July, Reuters reports.
- A charge sheet from the European Commission named Disney (DIS -3.8%), NBCUniversal (CMCSA -1.8%), Paramount (VIA -0.6%, VIAB -1.9%), Sony (SNE -2.8%), Twentieth Century Fox (FOX -1.4%, FOXA -1.4%), Warner Bros. (TWX -2.1%) -- and Sky (OTCQX:SKYAY -2.2%).
- The EC accused the firms of creating improper movie licensing deals blocking users outside the UK and Ireland (thus, most of Europe) from getting to paid Sky programming. Related clauses in the deals block other broadcasters from making pay TV available in the UK and Ireland. Meanwhile, the EC is pursuing a market less fragmented by border restrictions.
- Heavy fines could await all involved; the EU could fine companies up to 10% of global annual revenue. Disney pledged in the summer to fight vigorously.
- A closed-door hearing is set for Jan. 18-19.
- Previously: EU antitrust charges against Hollywood: What's at stake (Jul. 23 2015)
Dec. 18, 2015, 2:24 PM
- Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) is down 3.3% today -- a case of selling the news of early record performance from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, or BTIG's downgrade of Disney today?
- "Even the Force cannot protect ESPN," Rich Greenfield says in downgrading Disney to Sell.
- Despite strength from the blockbuster film, Greenfield thinks consensus earnings are too high for fiscal 2017 and "far too high" for fiscal 2018.
- ESPN paid too much for rights packages in order to block out competitors like Fox Sports and NBC, and got too many of them, he says. BTIG Resarch expects fiscal 2017 cable operating income to actually decrease overall Y/Y.
- If The Force Awakens doesn't crest $2B in worldwide gross, Disney will miss the firm's 2016 earnings estimates as well.
- Rosenblatt Securities analyst Martin Pyykkonen disagrees, saying ESPN downside is outweighed by record performance from Star Wars.
- And in the sort of news that makes some roll their eyes, Moody's says the film's release is credit positive for Disney.
- Previously: Star Wars arrives amid sky-high expectations (Dec. 18 2015)
- Previously: Goldman re-crunches numbers, raises estimates for 'Star Wars' (Dec. 16 2015)
- Previously: All eyes on tickets, but for Disney, 'Star Wars' may be about the merch (Dec. 16 2015)
Dec. 15, 2015, 5:55 PM
- Monday Night Football was a winner again for ESPN (DIS +2.6%), with a matchup that helped the network top the week's cable ratings yet again.
- The Dallas-Washington tilt on MNF drew a week-leading 14.1M viewers to pace ESPN's prime-time average 2.8M viewers, just ahead of holiday-stuffed sibling network ABC Family, which drew 2.2M, and Fox News Channel's (FOX +0.4%, FOXA +0.3%) 2M viewers, Nielsen says.
- Discovery Channel (DISCA +0.3%) and Hallmark Channel (CRWN +1.6%) were tied at No. 4 with 1.9M viewers. Hallmark scored with a pair of films breaking into the top 10: On the 12th Day of Christmas (3.5M viewers) and Family for Christmas (3.3M).
- On a 24-hour basis, Fox News was No. 1 for the week. Looking at the coveted 18-49 demographic, ESPN topped the charts in prime-time, and Adult Swim on a 24-hour basis.
Dec. 15, 2015, 9:13 AM
- The next step for Walt Disney's (NYSE:DIS) over-the-top ambitions is a big one, with a launch in China and the help of Alibaba (NYSE:BABA).
- Disney is up 2.1% premarket; Alibaba is up 0.4%.
- The two will launch DisneyLife through Alibaba's Tmall shopping site, with shipments beginning Dec. 28 and presales available now. A $125 device in the iconic Mickey Mouse shape will give consumers access to content as well as allow users to plan visits to the company's parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
- As with other foreign companies, Disney can't operate its own TV channels in China. The deal expands a partnership where Alibaba had arranged to distribute products related to Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Disney works with more than 300 stores selling on Tmall.
- The $125 initial payment gets Chinese consumers a one-year subscription to Disney's service; the company didn't say what it would cost for additional years.
- In October, Disney launched DisneyLife as a direct service in the UK, and in Disney's earnings call in early November, CEO Bob Iger said the company was "very interested" in the opportunity to take content direct in other markets.
- Previously: Disney call: Excited for 'Star Wars,' no panic over ESPN (Nov. 05 2015)
- Previously: Disney up 1% as it rolls out DisneyLife subscription service to UK (Oct. 21 2015)
Nov. 30, 2015, 1:38 PM
- U.S. box office tailed off a bit from a strong Thanksgiving Day but still finished up 12% Y/Y, though not enough to break turkey day records.
- Films collected $257M at domestic theaters between Wednesday and Sunday, compared to $293.7M during Thanksgiving two years ago (powered by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen).
- Still, it was the fifth-biggest total ever for the holiday, paced by The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (LGF -2%), which took $75.8M over the five days, bringing its global total to $440.7M.
- After Katniss, Pixar's The Good Dinosaur (DIS -1.1%) outpointed Creed (TWX +0.7%) in both three-day and five-day totals, drawing $56M over five days to Creed's $42.6M.
- Over the three-day weekend, Mockingjay, Dinosaur and Creed earned $51.6M, $39.2M and $30.1M respectively; those films were followed up by Spectre (SNE, $12.8M) and The Peanuts Movie (FOX, FOXA, $9.7M).
Nov. 30, 2015, 12:08 PM
- Pointing to a "Mickey Mouse" future -- not the good way -- Doug Kass has Walt Disney (DIS -1.5%) on his "Best Short Ideas" list.
- The company's media networks (including ESPN) are the biggest contributors to revenues and profits (44% and 54% of totals, respectively), and Kass thinks multimillion-subscriber losses will continue going forward in an environment of secular decline and hot competition in TV.
- It's not just TV; he writes that the parks business could suffer from demand elasticity after a long run-up in ticket prices, as well as currency challenges overseas from a strong dollar.
- Overall, after average annual EPS growth of 20.2% over the past five years, Kass expects the next five years to come in at less than 10% a year -- even lower than consensus estimates for 13-14% a year, making for pricey valuation if EPS growth slows as much as he expects.
- Previously: ESPN subscriber losses spur debate: Where's the bottom? (Nov. 24 2015)
Nov. 27, 2015, 7:38 PM
- Thanksgiving Day box office was up 20% Y/Y as viewers flocked to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 as well as a pair of strong offerings, in the latest Rocky franchise film and a new family offering from Pixar.
- Mockingjay Part 2 (LGF -0.5%) drew $10.4M Thursday to bring its domestic total to $146.7M ($388M worldwide total), and should prevail over the five-day holiday weekend -- though it will get a challenge as post-feast families show up for The Good Dinosaur (DIS -3%).
- That film grossed $6.56M, bringing it to $16.4M after a Wednesday opening. It took the second spot just ahead of Creed (TWX -0.7%), featuring Michael B. Jordan and the latest portrayal of Rocky Balboa by Sylvester Stallone. Creed grossed $6.45M, though in nearly 500 fewer theaters.
- Lions Gate's film is showing legs but still pacing behind Mockingjay Part 1's performance a year ago.
- The only other key opening was the much-delayed Victor Frankenstein (FOX -1.4%, FOXA -1.2%), which failed to draw interest, pulling just $470K on the holiday, and a two-day total of $1.1M.
Walt Disney Co together with its subsidiaries is a diversified entertainment company with operations in five business segments: Media Networks, Parks and Resorts, Studio Entertainment, Consumer Products and Interactive.
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