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Disney cuts streaming losses, resurgent parks boost results

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Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) reduced losses in its streaming media unit by more than $400 million from the prior quarter, the company said on Wednesday as it reported earnings in line with Wall Street expectations.

Shares of Disney fell 2.6% to $98.45 in after-hours trading.

A price increase and reduced marketing expenses helped improve the performance of the streaming unit, which ended the January-through-March quarter with an operating loss of $659 million. In the prior quarter, the division lost $1.1 billion.

Overall, diluted earnings per share came in at 93 cents, meeting the consensus forecast of analysts polled by Refinitiv. Revenue hit $21.82 billion, slightly above analyst projections of $21.79 billion.

The company’s theme parks kept humming with visitors, with growth at its Shanghai Disney Resort, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort helping lift operating income at the unit by 23% from a year earlier to $2.2 billion.

“We’re pleased with our accomplishments this quarter, including the improved financial performance of our streaming business, which reflect the strategic changes we’ve been making throughout the company to realign Disney for sustained growth and success,” Chief Executive Bob Iger said in a statement.

Total subscribers to the flagship Disney+ service dropped by 4 million from the previous quarter to 157.8 million.

Most of the defections came from the Disney+ Hotstar offering in India after it lost streaming rights to Indian Premier League cricket matches. Disney also shed 300,000 customers in the United States and Canada, where it raised prices last December.

Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy had warned in February that the company expected “modestly higher” cancellations because of the price increase.

Wall Street has been pressuring media companies to make profits from the billions of dollars they have poured into streaming in recent years to compete with Netflix Inc (NFLX.O).

Iger, who came out of retirement in November to tackle the company’s challenges, announced a revamp in February that included a promise of eliminating $5.5 billion in costs, partly through 7,000 job cuts.

As Disney tries to build streaming, its traditional television business faces hurdles. Operating income at linear networks dropped 35% from a year earlier to $1.8 billion, partly from higher sports programming and production costs related to the College Football Playoffs and the NFL at ESPN, and lower advertising revenue at ABC and at its owned television stations.

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People gather ahead of the “Festival of Fantasy” parade at the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom theme park in Orlando, Florida, U.S. July 30, 2022. REUTERS/Octavio Jones/File Photo

A man looks at his phone as he passes by a screen advertising Walt Disney’s streaming service Disney+ in New York City, U.S., November 12, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger attends the Nominees Luncheon for the 95th Oscars in Beverly Hills, California, U.S. February 13, 2023. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

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