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Following two quarters of losses amid COVID-19 pressures, The Walt Disney Co. surprised Wall Street with a modest profit for the most recent quarter, the first quarter of its new fiscal year. For the quarter ended Jan. 2, Disney managed net income from continuing operations of $29 million — a big drop from $2.13 billion a year earlier, but a profit nonetheless.
The big drag, of course, is the theme parks. Some remain closed and those which are open have to operate at reduced capacity due to the pandemic. Noting comments earlier in the day by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, that Americans of all ages — not just targeted groups — could begin to receive COVID-19 vaccinations by April, Disney CEO Bob Chapek told Wall Street analysts Thursday “that’s a game changer.”
Investors cheered growth in the company’s streaming business, with Disney+ subscriptions hitting 94.9 million — ahead of projections and dramatically up from 26.5 million at the end of the fiscal first quarter last year. For Disney’s other streaming brands, ESPN+ subs were up 83% from a year ago and Hulu 30%.
Under Disney’s new segment reporting structure, revenues for the Linear Networks (cable and broadcast in the U.S. and abroad) rose 2% to $7.69 billion, while operating income declined 4% to $1.73 billion. For the domestic networks, cable was down, while broadcast was up. Overall revenues for the domestic operations rose 1% to $6.07 billion and operating income dropped