Television

Star India rev growth offset by incremental rights expense, weakness in ad rev: Disney management

Star generated about $150 million of operating income in the third quarter last year.

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MUMBAI: The purchase of 21st Century Fox, which was aimed at helping Walt Disney Company's future plans, is causing initial pain to the Bob Iger-led media conglomerate. In its fiscal third quarter result for 2019, Disney missed earnings expectations partly because of the worse-than-expected performance of Fox assets. Star India, the newly acquired premium property of Disney after the completion of the merger, was not able to live up to expectations.

“We estimate Star generated about $150 million of operating income in the third quarter last year. Star's results this quarter came in well below our expectations and were driven primarily by a meaningful step-up in rights cost for the quadrennial Cricket World Cup and the Indian Premier League as revenue growth was more than offset by the incremental rights expense,” Disney Senior EVP and CFO Christine McCarthy said.

Despite the initial challenges, Disney CEO Bob Iger highlighted the benefits of the deal such as the addition of Star and Hotstar to the Disney portfolio giving a significant presence in India. He added that it is a huge market with interesting dynamics notably, a rapidly rising middle class with a strong and growing appetite for media, especially sports. He also noted that Hotstar’s broad array of premium sports rights will serve it well over the next five years especially as it expands the service into markets across Southeast Asia.

“It was the quadrennial Cricket World Cup, of course. They have their Indian Premier League, which is ongoing, but this is once every four years for the World Cup. There were a couple of significant games that were rained out. They have insurance coverage for some of those, but any proceeds would be in future periods. And there was also some weakness in advertising revenue that was related to the local advertising market,” Iger commented on Star’s performance in India.

Disney also continued to spend big on streaming services such as Disney+, ESPN+, the platforms where it sees its future. Moreover, the firm also took full operational control of streaming platform Hulu, which further affected the balance sheet.

Disney’s earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter decreased 28 per cent to $1.35 from $1.87 in the prior-year quarter where it was expected $1.74 by the analysts. Total revenue stood at $20.2 billion against the consensus estimate for $21.4 billion.

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