Growth from new digital pay TV providers has stopped the declines at ESPN, when it comes to subscriber's losses from traditional pay TV providers: cable, satellite and telco companies.
Its media networks unit was up 9% to $5.96 billion, despite lower advertising revenues. Total cable network revenues were up 5% to $4.1 billion. ESPN revenues were comparable to the prior-year quarter, with gains on affiliate revenue growth. At the same time, that network recorded lower advertising revenue.
Broadcasting -- its TV networks and TV stations -- witnessed 21% more revenues to $1.8 billion. Disney pointed to the higher program sales of two Marvel TV series and the ABC network show “Black-ish.” Also, its TV stations gained in political TV advertising revenues.
Speaking on CNBC, Bob Iger, CEO, Walt Disney said: “Traditional subscriber losses were abated substantially... That growth [from digital multichannel video program distributors] has continued, but we are not getting specific in terms of updating it.”
Two months ago, Disney said ESPN+ pulled in 1 million paid subscribers, just after five months from its launch. Nielsen cable universe estimates in August showed ESPN with 85.9 million traditional pay TV subscribers -- down 290,000 from July.
With regard to its much awaited general entertainment direct-to-consumer service, Iger said during the earnings call that the new service will be called Disney+ and is set to begin in 2019.
The mostly family-oriented service will feature Disney, Pixar, Marvel, National Geographic TV and original movie and library content -- as well as “Star Wars” TV series.
Disney's biggest improvement in its most recent quarter came from its studio theatrical business, which grew 50% more to $2.15 billion in in revenue. That came from strong business around "Black Panther," "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Incredibles 2."
Disney’s Parks and Resorts climbed 9% higher to $5.07 billion, with increased guest spending and attendance -- as well as higher results from other related businesses.
Consumer products and interactive media dropped 8% to $1.12 billion due to lower income from licensing activities and lower comparable-store sales at its retail business.