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Disney Should Drop Dividend, Double Streaming Content Budget

Disney+ has overperformed since launching, whereas different components of its enterprise stay battered by the pandemic

Disney investor Dan Loeb is pleading with the corporate to go all-in on streaming, arguing the corporate ought to “permanently suspend” its $Three billion annual dividend and redirect that cash in direction of Disney+’s authentic content material price range.

“By reallocating a dividend of a few dollars per share, Disney could more than double its Disney+ original content budget,” mentioned Loeb, the founding father of hedge fund Third Point, which owns round 5.5 million shares of the corporate as of June 30, in a letter to Disney CEO Bob Chapek.

Disney+ has received off to a greater than anticipated begin, surpassing 60 million subscribers globally inside its first 9 months, reaching the low-end of its 2024 subscriber targets 4 years forward of schedule. But that has come whereas the coronavirus pandemic has obliterated the corporate’s theme parks and film companies.

The parks division misplaced out on $3.5 billion in working revenue for its fiscal third quarter, which ended June 27. Overall, Disney’s parks enterprise pulled in simply $983 million throughout the quarter, which was an 85% slide in contrast with the $6.6 billion in income the parks earned throughout the identical interval final 12 months. That’s coming off a second quarter during which the corporate took a $1 billion hit earlier this 12 months. The firm introduced final week it might be reducing round 28,000 jobs.

The pandemic has supercharged the shift in direction of streaming, which now boasts round seven top-tier streaming companies, with ViacomCBS’ upcoming rebrand of CBS All Access into Paramount+ set for early subsequent 12 months. Loeb argues that Disney’s direct-to-consumer unit that additionally consists of Hulu and ESPN+ can collectively problem Netflix.

“With Disney’s superior tentpole franchises and production capabilities, we believe that the company can exceed the subscriber base of the industry leader, Netflix, in just a few years,” Loeb continues. “But time is of the essence and the company should consider significant additional investments in content both through production and acquisitions here and abroad.”

Because of the pandemic, the one movie Disney has put in theaters since March (Pixar’s “Onward”) has been “New Mutants,” one of many movies it acquired in its Fox deal. With the theatrical enterprise nonetheless reeling, Loeb argues that fairly than anticipate theaters to turn out to be protected once more, Disney ought to push extra of its movies in direction of streaming. Just about each main launch has been pushed out of 2020.

Though not the way in which they did with “Mulan,” the place subscribers might pay an additional $29.99 for 3 months of unique entry. Loeb described the experiement as a helpful learnings expertise (TheWrap estimated that “Mulan” might have achieved fairly effectively for Disney, but it surely’s an imperfect guess).

“While some pundits have described the Mulan release as a ‘debacle’ due to the $29.99 cost for a VOD download, we see this as a valuable learning experience, expect stumbles on the way to greatness, and believe this will drive a faster decision to make all content available to subscribers for a simple subscription fee,” Loeb writes.

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