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Disney+ hits 95 million subscribers

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Disney+ hits 95 million subscribers

Pandemic-stricken Disney posted a surprise first-quarter profit Thursday, boosted by strength at streaming service Disney+, which added more than 21 million new subscribers.

Disney said overall that it amassed nearly 95 million Disney+ subscribers by the end of Jan. 2, compared with just under 74 million subscribers at the end of the fourth quarter.

In recent months, a new Pixar Animation movie, “Soul,” and the culmination of Season 2 of the “Star Wars” hit series “The Mandalorian,” helped boost sign ups, the company said.

The rapid growth of Disney+ also was lifted by Disney Plus Hotstar in India and Indonesia, which accounted for about 30 percent of the streamer’s total customers.

Disney+, which launched in November 2019, has grown quickly and is considered a viable rival for streaming giant Netflix, which has amassed more than 200 million global subscribers. In its short lifespan, Disney+ has exceeded the company’s initial subscriber goal of 60 million to 90 million by 2024. Now it expects Disney+ to have 230 million to 260 million subscribers by 2024.

The streaming service has been a rare bright spot for the Mouse House, which has seen massive slowdown in its theme parks and movie business due to pandemic. Last fall, the company began restructuring its media and entertainment divisions to focus more on Disney+.

The company said growth at service gave Disney its first profit after it reported two quarterly losses in a row.

For the period, Disney logged a profit of $17 million, or a penny a share versus a pre-pandemic year-ago first quarter, which amassed a $2.11 billion profit or $1.16 a share. Adjusted earnings were 32 cents, better than Wall Street’s expectation of a loss of 41 cents.

Total revenue at Disney fell 22 percent to $16.25 billion, with revenue dropping in both the company’s media and entertainment distribution and its parks, experiences and products segments. In the latter, revenue sank by more than half. Analysts predicted revenue of $15.93 billion.

Disney continues its focus on the streaming service as it plans for around 100 film and television projects, of which 80 percent are set to go directly to Disney+. This includes nearly a dozen Marvel series and more than 10 Star Wars shows.

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DirecTV to become standalone company through $16B AT&T, TPG deal

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DirecTV to become standalone company through $16B AT&T, TPG deal

Telecom giant AT&T has inked a deal with private equity firm TPG that calls for struggling satellite TV provider DirecTV to become a standalone company.

The deal calls for AT&T to sell a 30 percent stake in DirecTV, AT&T TV and its U-Verse to TPG in exchange for $1.8 billion in cash.

The transaction values the satellite TV properties at $16.25 billion — a fraction of the $48.5 billion AT&T shelled out for it in 2015 under former chief executive Randall Stephenson. 

But it paves the way for the telecom and media giant to focus on its growing businesses, including 5G wireless and streaming video service HBO Max, said CEO John Stankey in announcing the deal.

The companies will form a new venture, aptly called DirecTV, that will own and operate the pay video services.

AT&T will also receive $7.8 billion from the new venture after the spinoff is complete, including the assumption of $200 million in debt. It will use the money to pay off debts, it said.

The company under Stankey has been under the directive to focus on core-assets, such as the company’s wireless business, in order to reduce its $149 billion debt load and grow its new streaming service HBO Max.

AT&T put the declining DirecTV on the block last year, but didn’t like the early offers, which came in at more than $15 billion, as The Post reported in December.

DirecTV has been pummeled by cord-cutting, bleeding subscribers and booking a $15.5 billion charge in AT&T’s fourth quarter earnings report last month.

In recent months, AT&T had focused on a divestiture of its stake to private equity groups to avoid regulatory concerns. 

AT&T said Thursday that by keeping a majority stake, DirecTV can still leverage its distribution reach. The telecom giant offered that the new DirecTV “will have a commercial agreement with AT&T to continue to offer bundled pay-TV service for AT&T’s wireless and internet customers. Additionally, AT&T and new DirecTV will have commercial agreements in place that will give new DirecTV video subscribers continued access to HBO Max.”

“This agreement aligns with our investment and operational focus on connectivity and content, and the strategic businesses that are key to growing our customer relationships across 5G wireless, fiber and HBO Max,” Stankey said.

He added: “TPG is the right partner for this transaction and creating a new entity is the right way to structure and manage the video business for optimum value creation.”

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Tesla stock has ‘significant’ link to Reddit posts: analyst

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Tesla stock has 'significant' link to Reddit posts: analyst

Tesla might be the biggest meme stock of them all.

The electric-car maker’s stock price appears strongly connected to how many people are talking about it on Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum, Barclays analysts say.

After scraping data from the foul-mouthed message board behind the recent GameStop frenzy, the bank’s researchers found a “statistically significant” relationship between the number of posts about Tesla and its performance on the market.

“We have painfully learned that social media memes can matter more for TSLA share performance than actual financial metrics, fundamentals or (dare we say) valuation,” Barclays analysts led by Ryan Preclaw and Brian Johnson wrote in a research note this week.

Tesla shares tended to outperform the S&P 500 one or two days after big upticks in WallStreetBets submissions about the stock, the analysts found.

Tesla also had positive returns in the days leading up to 20 spikes in Reddit posts about the stock over the past five years, meaning “the statistical significance does not seem caused by only a single event,” the researchers said.

“In the model we think is most appropriate, a swing up of 7 or more submissions today over yesterday has been predictive of outsized returns in TSLA stock tomorrow,” the Barclays team wrote in its Tuesday note.

But the findings came with some caveats. The analysts only examined WallStreetBets posts that mentioned Tesla’s ticker symbol without referencing any other stocks. There also might not be enough data to make a rock-solid link between Reddit chatter and Tesla’s movement, according to the note.

“The situation has been so dynamic that there are simply too few examples to be confident of a stable process between WSB posts and TSLA returns,” the analysts wrote. “Even more than usual, past results might not predict future performance.”

Tesla shares tumbled as much as 6.3 percent to $695 on Thursday after Bloomberg News reported that the Elon Musk-led automaker had halted some production of its Model 3 sedan at its California plant for about two weeks.

The stock came under pressure earlier this week amid a drop in the price of bitcoin, which Tesla added to its balance sheet last month.

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Costco to hike its minimum wage to $16 an hour

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Costco to hike its minimum wage to $16 an hour

Costco is boosting its minimum hourly wage to $16 starting next week, the warehouse retailer’s chief executive said during congressional testimony on Thursday.

The $1-an-hour wage increase exceeds the pay that competitors Target, Walmart and other big-box retailers offer their employees and comes amid a national discussion about raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Earlier this month, Walmart said it would raise the average pay for 425,000 of its employees to $15 an hour, while still maintaining its starting wage of $11.

“This isn’t altruism,” Costco’s CEO, Craig Jelinek, told the US Senate Budget Committee on Thursday. “In the long run, by minimizing turnover, maximizing employee productivity, commitment and loyalty, we encourage our employees to view Costco as providing a career rather than just a job.”

Jelinik said half of Costco’s 180,000 employees in the US are paid at the top of the company’s hourly pay scale in excess of $25 an hour and most of these employees, he added, receive regular twice yearly bonuses of up to $4,000 a pop. 

The average hourly wage for employees including these bonuses comes to about $24 an hour, he said.

The Biden administration has proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour from $7.25 an hour.

During the pandemic Costco had added an extra $2 an hour in so called hazard pay to frontline workers’ checks, but that will end this year as the company adds a permanent pay increase, Jelinik said.

The members-only discount retailer based in Issaquah, Wash. claims that its pay and benefits have resulted in lower turnover as more than 60 percent of its employees have been with the company for at least five years and more than a third have been there for more than a decade. 

“We feel the experience level and loyalty of our employees is a significant advantage for our company,” Jelinik said.

Costco’s move, industry experts said, is likely to put pressure on other large retailers to revamp their pay.

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