Disney stock (NYSE: DIS) is trading sharply higher in US premarkets today as markets gave a thumbs up to the company’s fiscal first quarter 2023 earnings where it beat both revenue and profit estimates.

DIS CEO Bob Iger also offered more details on the transformation plan including a reorganization of business and streamlining of the workforce and gave markets just what they wanted to listen to in the first earnings call ever since he returned as the CEO in November last year.

Disney reported revenues of $23.51 billion in the quarter that ended in December. The revenues were up 8% YoY and also ahead of the $23.37 billion that analysts expected. The rise in revenues was primarily led by the Parks segment whose revenues climbed 21% YoY to $8.74 billion.

The company’s Media and Entertainment Distribution business reported revenues of $14.77 billion, a YoY rise of only about 1%. Within the segment, Linear Networks’ revenues fell 5% to around $7.29 billion. Content sales rose 1% to $2.46 billion. Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer revenues rose 13% YoY to $5.30 billion.

The DTC business has been a key revenue growth driver for Disney. However, the segment’s losses also ballooned under Iger’s predecessor Bob Chapek. In the September quarter, the company’s DTC losses hit record highs but Chapek said that losses have peaked and would gradually come down.

Disney Posted Better Than Expected Earnings

Meanwhile, DTC losses narrowed to $1.05 billion in the fiscal first quarter. While the losses swelled 78% YoY, the metric was below the over $1.5 billion operating loss in the sequential quarter.

Disney’s Media and Entertainment Distribution segment posted an operating loss of $10 million in the quarter, as compared to an operating profit of $808 million in the corresponding quarter last year.

However, the Parks segment posted an operating profit of $3.05 billion, which was 25% higher than the corresponding quarter last year. Thanks to the strong performance of the Parks segment, Disney’s consolidated operating profit fell only 7% to $3.04 billion.

Its adjusted EPS of $0.99 was also ahead of $0.78 that analysts expected. At the end of the quarter, Disney+ had 161.8 million global paying subscribers which were below the 164.2 million that it reported at the end of the previous quarter.

DIS Lost Streaming Subscribers in the Quarter

Looking at the breakup of subscribers, Disney+ had 46.6 million subscribers in the US and Canada which was slightly higher than the previous quarter. International Disney+ subscribers also increased 2% YoY to 2%. However, the subscriber base of Disney+ Hotstar fell 6% YoY to 57.5 million.

Apart from these, ESPN+ had 24.9 million subscribers, a YoY rise of 2%. Total Hulu subscribers also increased by 2% to 48 million.

As for average pricing, while the average monthly revenue per user for Disney+ fell by 3%, the metric rose 28% for Disney+ Hotstar.

Meanwhile, following Netflix’s footsteps, Disney also withdrew its guidance for the streaming subscribers. Under Chapek, Disney+ was targeting subscribers between 215-245 million by the fiscal year 2024.

Netflix stock has rebounded in 2023 after losing over 60% in 2022. There is a guide on how to buy Netflix stock.

Bob Iger Restructures Disney Reporting Segments

In late 2020, Chapek restructured Disney’s business to put streaming at the center. Iger has on multiple occasions shown an inclination toward profitability over growth. The company has now announced a new business structure and would have three business segments.

These are Disney Entertainment, Parks, Experiences & products, and ESPN. The Entertainment segment would have most of the media operations, including streaming.

There were previously rumors that Disney is considering a spin-off of ESPN. While the company has made it a separate reporting segment, Iger emphasized that the company would not spin off the business. He admitted that the idea was previously under consideration but was subsequently dropped.

Iger has also been working to streamline the teams and give more control to the creative teams. During the earnings call, he said, “Our company is fueled by storytelling and creativity, and virtually every dollar we earn, every transaction, every interaction with our consumers, emanates from something creative.”

DIS to Focus on Creativity Under Iger

He added, “I have always believed that the best way to spur great creativity is to make sure the people who are managing the creative processes feel empowered.”

Iger said that “our new structure is aimed at returning greater authority to our creative leaders and making them accountable for how their content performs financially.” He also said that the previous structure “severed that link.”

Notably, Iger also previously mandated employees to work from the office and said that the model works better for creative businesses like Disney.

During the earnings release, Disney also announced that it would eliminate 7,000 positions which is roughly 3% of its workforce.

The company is also looking to cut costs by around $5.5 billion. While $3 billion of these would come from content, the remaining would be non-content.

Disney also maintained its guidance of achieving streaming profitability by the end of the fiscal year 2024.

Iger Is Transforming Disney for Sustainable Profitable Growth

During the earnings call, Iger said that he has previously also presided over Disney’s two transformations when he was the CEO between 2005 and 2020.

He added, “Now, it’s time for another transformation, one that rationalizes our enviable streaming business and puts it on a path to sustained growth and profitability while also reducing expenses to improve margins and returns and better positioning us to weather future disruption, increased competition, and global economic challenges.”

DIS to Restore Dividend as Business Stabilizes

Iger also said that the company would seek board approval for the restoration of its dividend which was suspended in 2020. Most of the companies that suspended dividend that year have since restored it.

Iger said Disney would start with a modest dividend and then gradually increase it. There is a list of companies that pay good dividend yields.

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