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3 Takeaways from Disney's First-Quarter Earnings Call

Disney CEO Bob Iger at Fortune Brainstorm Tech 2016. Photograph by Stuart Isett — Fortune Brainstorm TECH

Disney CEO Bob Iger has a lot on his plate. For starters, there’s the pending $66 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s assets. There’s also a new strategy of going head to head with Netflix, which involves pulling all Disney content from the popular streaming service and launching a competitor. The series of bold—though arguably necessary and possibly tardy—gambles will mean some level of uncertainty at the Mouse House for a few years to come. Lucky for the company, Iger is known for remaining cool as ice in the face of pretty much anything. But executing on so many simultaneous fronts could prove tough, even for him.

Disney’s first-quarter numbers, reported Tuesday afternoon, were a mixed bag. While the company beat earnings expectations, its revenue missed estimates, coming in at $15.35 billion versus the $15.45 billion analysts had expected. Here are several other highlights from Iger’s call with analysts earlier today.

  1. ESPN’s streaming service will cost $4.99 a month: The new sports-centric streaming offering, which launches sometime this spring, will provide access to a livestream of all ESPN networks for a monthly $4.99 (otherwise known as $5). Iger told analysts that the service would offer “more compelling visuals” and an “easy, intuitive” interface. “The technological guts behind the entire EPSN online or app experience is being completely redone,” said Iger. “The app that we are launching sometime this spring will be a completely new app.”
  2. Speaking of streaming services, Hulu’s losses are mounting: Disney owns about a third of Hulu, and will soon increase its share to two-thirds (assuming its bid for Fox, another Hulu parent company, goes through). The problem is, Hulu seems to be bleeding money, and the situation is getting worse, not better. According to Disney’s earnings call, Hulu’s losses will increase $250 million year-over-year in 2018, up from an expected increase of $100 million (Hulu doesn’t disclose its overall annual loss). But here’s the silver lining: The bigger losses at Hulu are largely due to higher programming costs, and guess who Hulu has to pay those licensing fees to? You guessed it, Disney. (Among other content owners.)
  3. The Trump tax cut’s $1.6 billion gift to Disney: Iger has had his differences with President Donald Trump, but we’re guessing he appreciates the little bonus Disney got this year, courtesy of new tax legislation: A $1.6 billion, one-time net tax benefit and a reduced fiscal 2018 federal income tax rate of 24.5%, down from last year’s rate of 35%. But a big question remains: Beyond the one-time bonuses awarded to employees, will those tax savings translate to growth and more profits for the company?
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