Disney-Comcast Feud Over Hulu Heats Up

Tensions between Disney and Comcast over their joint ownership of Hulu are heating up. The two companies are feuding over Disney’s decision last year to not launch Hulu overseas, a move that Comcast believes undermined its growth potential and valuation. The issue has inflamed arbitration proceedings now underway between the two companies over the value of Hulu, say people familiar with the situation. The dispute is a prelude to what could be a bigger fight in 2024, when Disney is scheduled to buy Comcast out of its minority stake in Hulu at a price that could be anywhere from $9 billion to $13 billion. Buying Comcast’s stake would give Disney full ownership of Hulu.

Starz Slaps Disney With Copyright Suits

Starz wants Disney to change the name of its upcoming Latin America streaming service, Star+. The Lionsgate-owned network filed copyright infringement lawsuits against Disney in Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. Starz is arguing that the name of Disney’s forthcoming streaming service is too similar with Starz, particularly its own streaming service StarzPlay, which operates in 58 countries worldwide and has been available in Latin America since 2019.

Bob Iger Sells Off Half His Disney Stock Holdings

Bob Iger, executive chairman of the Walt Disney Co., sold about $100 million worth of the company’s stock on June 1. The sale represented about half of Iger’s holdings in the company he headed as CEO until last year. According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Iger sold 550,570 shares at prices averaging just over $179 a share. The shares were sold in 173 separate transactions resulting from two sell orders.

Disney Launches Minority-Led Business Accelerator

Disney Advertising Sales is introducing an accelerator program to help minority-led businesses with their marketing efforts. The Disney Advertising Sales Accelerator Program will offer 10 minority-led businesses comprehensive and custom advertising strategies, creative consultation and advertising opportunities to help tell their stories to consumers.

Disney Hit With Sexual Orientation Discrimination Suit

The Walt Disney Co. may be gearing up for its traditional celebration of Pride month, but on Tuesday a long-time executive has hit the House of Mouse with a lawsuit of discrimination based on sexual orientation. “Plaintiff has direct and repeated complaints to HR about the discrimination he has endured while employed by Defendants and, concomitantly, the related failures to promote him and to pay him at the same level as other department heads,” says the complaint filed in L.A. Superior Court by attorneys for Joel Hopkins.

EARNINGS CALL

Broadcast Beats Guidance At Disney

“Overall broadcasting results were higher than we expected [for the quarter ended April 3], driven by lower marketing spend due to timing shifts of some new series in addition to a number of other smaller factors,” Disney CFO Christine McCarthy told analysts in the company’s conference call after releasing results Thursday afternoon.

QUARTERLY REPORT

Disney Streaming Growth Slows

Disney revenue slid 13% in the fiscal second quarter, but earnings per share nearly doubled, beating Wall Street expectations. Streaming once again was the highlight of the financial report, but growth of Disney+ moderated significantly during the period. It reached 103.6 million global subscribers, up from 94 million as of the previous quarter. Analysts had expected a tally of around 109 million, with the miss causing the company’s shares to tumble in after-hours trading. Revenue of $15.6 billion fell below the consensus forecast from analysts, who had been looking for $15.87 billion.

How Much Did Marvel Heroes Help Lift Disney+?

With Walt Disney Co. theme park operations limited due to the coronavirus pandemic, investors watching the company report earnings on Thursday are expected to zero in on its fast growth into streaming TV. During the January to March quarter, the Disney+ streaming service was aided by box office heavyweight Marvel Studios. The producer of blockbuster superhero films released its first TV series, WandaVision, in January followed by The Falcon and the Winter Soldier in late March.

TVN’S NEW FACILITIES INSIDER

New Facilities Insider | Disney’s Digital Center 3 Centralizes Hardware, Allows Control From Anywhere

A first look at Disney’s new Digital Center 3 (DC3) in The Woodlands, Texas, a massive, 187,000-square-foot plant consolidating playout, transmission and media operations. (Sam Exley photo)

Craig Hunegs Leaving Disney Following Restructure

Craig Hunegs is leaving Disney. The President of Entertainment at Walt Disney Television has decided to step down six months after a major restructure at the company. The Warner Bros. veteran joined Disney in 2019 following the Mouse House’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox, and he was to serve as a layer between Dana Walden and the heads of the various Disney-owned TV studios.

Disney Names Paul Richardson Chief HR Officer

The Walt Disney Co. named Paul Richardson as chief human resources officer effective July 1, the company said Thursday. Richardson is currently senior vice president, human resources for ESPN and was Disney’s first chief diversity officer. He succeeds longtime veteran Jayne Parker, who announced she is leaving Disney at the end of June after a 33-year career.

Bob Iger On Life After Disney: “I’m Not Retiring. I Can’t Possibly Do That”

The executive also talked about the backstory behind the surprise succession announcement in an interview with SiriusXM’s Alan Fleischmann.

Pay Discrimination Suit Against Disney Adds Pay Secrecy Claim

A claim that the company illegally prohibits employees from discussing pay has been added to a lawsuit accusing it of paying women less than men. Disney has aggressively pushed back.

Disney Set To Steal Netflix’s Streaming Crown

Netflix is forecast to lose its crown as the world’s biggest video streaming provider within three years, amid explosive growth at Disney after the launch of its rival on-demand service only 16 months ago. The Walt Disney Co. announced earlier this month that its flagship Disney+ platform, launched in late 2019, had passed 100 million global subscribers — a feat that took its arch-rival, Netflix, a decade to achieve. Taken together with subscriber numbers for the group’s ESPN+ sports platform and Hulu subscription service in the U.S., the surge puts Disney on track to dethrone Netflix by 2024.

National Hockey League, Disney Strike 7-Year Pact

Hockey will return in a big way to Walt Disney’s ESPN in a new seven-year deal that breaks NBCUniversal’s dominance of the sport’s TV rights and makes some National Hockey League games available for streaming in broader fashion. ESPN’s new deal with the NHL will last from the 2021-22 season through the 2027-28 season, the network announced today.

Bob Iger Bids Disney Shareholders Farewell

“It has been a very trying year. The most difficult we’ve had in recent memory, if ever,” said Bob Iger, first up Tuesday at the company’s virtual annual shareholders meeting. Sounding moved, he noted that it would be his last as he prepares to exit after 16 years as CEO and, more recently, executive chairman, and well over 40 years at the company.

Disney Plus Tops 100M Subscribers Worldwide

Disney Plus continues to grow apace, topping 100 million subscribers worldwide, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Tuesday during its annual shareholders meeting. That’s up from the 94.9 million Disney reported last month. “The enormous success of Disney Plus has inspired us to be even more ambitious, and to significantly increase our investment in the development of high-quality content,” Chapek said. “In fact, we set a target of 100-plus new titles per year.”

Disney Shares Top $200, ViacomCBS Soars Nearly 13% On Monday

Disney and ViacomCBS shares were buoyant in trading Monday thanks to good news that allowed ViacomCBS to buck the general downtrend for the Nasdaq index.

Disney Sells Stake In German Super RTL Channel

Disney is continuing its retreat from traditional television by selling its stake in German family channel Super RTL. The U.S. company’s joint-venture partner, the German broadcasting giant RTL, has acquired Disney’s 50% holding in the channel. RTL will now own 100% of Super RTL. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Disney, NFL Agree On Rights

Disney and the NFL have reached a broad agreement on a new media rights deal that will see ESPN renew Monday Night Football and ABC return to the Super Bowl rotation for the first time since 2006, according to sources. Contracts still have not been signed, but the two sides have smoothed over enough differences that a deal is very close at hand. Both the NFL and ESPN declined to comment.

Susan Fox Tops Disney’s Washington Shop

Susan Fox, VP of government relations for Disney has been named head of the company’s government relations team in Washington as senior VP, government relations. She reports to Alan Braverman, SVP and general counsel, and succeeds Richard Bates, who died in December.

NFL Wants 100% Increase In TV Rights; Disney Pushing Back

The NFL is in active discussions on renewal rates with all four of its existing network partners — NBC, CBS, Fox, and Disney-owned ESPN, according to people familiar with the matter. The NFL is hoping to get its primary package renewals completed by March 17. NBC, CBS and Fox are likely to accept increases closer to 100% than Disney, which is currently paying much more than the three broadcast networks for its Monday Night Football package, said the people.

Disney Appoints Social Responsibility EVP

Walt Disney has named Jenny Cohen to the newly created role of Executive Vice President, Social Responsibility, reporting directly to CEO Bob Chapek. Cohen, a 23-year Disney veteran was most recently SVP, brand, franchise and customer relationship management. She will lead the media giant’s global corporate social responsibility and environmental, social and governance work.

QUARTERLY REPORT

Streaming Grows As Disney Manages Overall Profit

Disney’s net income fell sharply in its most-recent quarter, as the coronavirus pandemic still weighs heavily on many of its businesses, from theme parks to movies. But results surpassed Wall Street’s expectations thanks to subscribers flocking to Disney+ and other of the entertainment giant’s streaming services.

Disney Sets Upfronts Week Return With May 18 Virtual Event

This year, at least one perennial upfronts week presenter — Disney — is returning to its usual position on the schedule. Disney will hold its upfront presentation on Tuesday, May 18, at 4 p.m. ET, which is the company’s traditional upfronts week time slot. But attendees will have to wait another year to return to the typical location at New York’s Lincoln Center — the event will be held virtually.

Walt Disney Analyst Upgrades Stock

UBS analyst John Hodulik upgraded his rating on the stock of the Walt Disney Co. from “neutral” to “buy” in a Friday report, lauding the Hollywood giant’s streaming success and arguing its theme parks would benefit from the reopening of the economy after the coronavirus pandemic. He also boosted his stock price target from $155 to $200.

Disney Nixes Bonuses For Top Executives

Disney disclosed the total compensation for its top executives in a year that saw the company hit hard by the pandemic right after Bob Chapek took over as CEO.

Disney Argues ‘Criminal Minds’ Class Action Is ‘Trial By Ambush’

Disney is asking a Los Angeles judge to dismiss a sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation complaint from California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing for being “hopelessly vague” about which Criminal Minds workers it’s suing on behalf of.

Disney, MPA Halt Contributions To Lawmakers Who Rejected Biden Certification

The Walt Disney Co. and the Motion Picture Association are joining Comcast, AT&T and others in halting political contributions to House and Senate lawmakers who voted to reject the certification of electoral votes for Joe Biden.

Analyst Reverses Course On Disney Stock

Rich Greenfield, the analyst who is outspoken in his belief that streaming will demolish the traditional TV business, said he was wrong about his recommendation to sell stock in the Walt Disney Co.

Ricky Strauss Leaves Disney After 9 Years

Disney veteran Rick Strauss, one of the key executives that launched Disney+, is leaving the company after nine years. Rebecca Campbell, Disney’s chairman of direct-to-consumer and international, made the announcement internally, with Strauss also sharing the news with his staff.

Disney Lobbyist Richard Bates Dies

Richard M. Bates, longtime senior vice president, U.S. government relations for the Walt Disney Co., has died. Since 2010, Bates oversaw Disney’s interactions with federal and state government entities and trade associations. He was a 29-year Disney veteran. Prior to working for Disney, Bates served as executive director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Inside The Seismic Shifts In TV’s Top Jobs

As Hollywood tries to make sense of 2020’s sweeping changes in TV’s C-suites, streaming’s priority is the only constant.

Disney May Finally Make Netflix Sweat

The entertainment titan’s ambitious new subscriber targets could put it past the streaming pioneer.

Here’s What Was Announced Or Confirmed For Disney+ On Disney Investor Day

Disney To Stream A Galaxy Of Star Wars & Marvel

In a virtual presentation for investors, Disney CEO Bob Chapek laid out super-sized ambitions for it direct-to-consumer efforts, leaning heavily on some of the company’s biggest brands. Over the next few years, Disney is planning to premiere directly on Disney+ not just an armada of Star Wars and Marvel series but 15 live-action, Pixar and animated series, and 15 live-action, Pixar and animated movies.

Disney Plans To Turbocharge Streaming Offerings

Some big-budget movies will first go to theaters. Other offerings will debut online. All will ultimately strengthen Disney+.

Disney Reorganizes Content Businesss

Disney is the latest traditional media company to consolidate its content creation across streaming and linear as traditional media companies adjust to the streaming age. Dana Walden, chairman of entertainment, Walt Disney Television, today unveiled a major restructure of the television production and original content businesses under her purview that involve Craig Erwich, Karey Burke, Craig Hunegs, Bert Salke, Carolyn Cassidy and Jane Francis.

Disney Raises Layoffs Target To 32,000

The company discloses that it plans to cut about 4,000 more staffers than previously targeted, mostly in its theme parks unit, during the first half of fiscal year 2021 due to the coronavirus crisis.

EARNINGS CALL

Disney CEO Sees Strong Future For Sports

While the pandemic delivered a big hit to the company’s theme park and movie business in the just-reported quarter, TV broadcasting was a bright spot, with political advertising for the ABC O&Os and increased affiliate revenues (retrans and reverse comp) countering a drop in other advertising. CEO Bob Chapek was also bullish on his company’s streaming efforts.