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Disney Now Lives By the Sub, Dies By the Sub

Bob Chapek
Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
November 11, 2021

Well, now we know why Disney scheduled a big promotional stunt two days after its fourth quarter earnings reveal: C.E.O. Bob Chapek knew the Disney+ subscriber numbers would stink like Donald Duck’s diaper—he telegraphed as much in September—and with all those annual subscriptions up for renewal, tomorrow’s “Disney+ Day” was born. I trust you’ll be dressed appropriately and celebrating your toddler’s favorite Moana delivery app with the fanfare Chapek expects, paying no attention to the Disney stock slide of 7.4 percent since yesterday, down 20 percent from a March peak. Its market cap is now at $294.6 billion, about the same as Netflix.   

For better and worse, that’s the new reality for Disney’s shares, which thrived during a pandemic that crippled its parks and movie businesses because investors were convinced that it was becoming a tech company. Disney stock is still trading at a crazy-high multiple, all because that’s how Netflix trades, thanks to strong growth in subscribers. Problem is, that narrative requires that Disney+ actually keeps growing at a healthy clip, which, with just 2.1 million new subs this quarter, well below some analyst estimates of 9 million, it most definitely is not. Never mind that the company’s other divisions all rebounded well from the pandemic comps of a year ago. Even the most Disney-drunk analysts cut their price targets, and a Marketwatch headline declared yesterday “the most disappointing earnings report in 10 years.” Live by the sub, die by the sub.