Walt Disney Earnings Call NUGGETS: Power Trends, Avengers

On Tuesday, Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS) reported its third quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Take a look.

Power Trends

Michael Nathanson – Nomura: I have two for Jay just on Parks. Jay, when you started the year, I remember you guys set rough numbers that it would be $500 million of incremental revenues and expenses related to the new (indiscernible). I wonder, now you are three quarters in the way down through the year, can you just update on where you (indiscernible) to that $500 million and is there any differences on the timing of revenues and expenses?

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Jay Rasulo – SEVP and CFO: We said last year that we would have $300 million of incremental revenue matched with cost and then an incremental $500 million this year. We are still very much on pace for that and it seems like it will be, as we thought, pretty much match up with costs of launching, training, preopening and all of the things that go into launching these new initiatives. If you look at this quarter in particular, Michael, we think about 50 basis points of our Parks margin, the change that you saw in the Parks margin number that I gave you, is the impact of these new initiatives on the margins for the quarter. That’s the Disney Cruise Line, California Adventure expansion and our Ahwahnee really represent the bulk of that 50 basis point impact.

Michael Nathanson – Nomura: I’ll ask one follow-up on power trends, we’re all excited about the new California park, give a sense of what the attendance trends look like through the quarter, maybe next quarter in California versus Florida, is there anything you are seeing differently than previous years?

Jay Rasulo – SEVP and CFO: No, not really a big difference between those two parks as we sort of get into the summer and look at what the rest of the summer is probably going to look like and into the fall, not a huge difference.

Avengers

Benjamin Swinburne – Morgan Stanley: I have a question for Bob on Avengers and then a follow-up for Jay. Bob last quarter you talked about being a little short on inventory at the Avengers and on the CP front, and wanting to sort of the get the company focused on fully monetizing that property. Looking at Q3, how would you sort of judge the performance of the Company overall across the segments particularly at CP and at film, and how do you think about looking at this property from a licensing perspective relative to some of your other big hits like the Cars where you really didn’t see much of a falloff on the licensing front as you moved out over the years beyond initial release of the film?

Robert A. Iger – President and CEO: We think Avengers is a strong property. It’s not as strong as Cars from the CP front, but that’s the strongest that we’ve ever had. I think it’s important to note that you can’t look at one of these properties in terms of it franchise quality or strength in one quarter. The Avengers is probably a good example of that, because we have to look at it through the release of DVD which is late this September and obviously that takes as well in to Christmas and because the Avengers incorporates Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk, we basically are selling products against all those characters and we’ll be selling it when those are the movies, certainly Iron Man, Thor and Captain America come out. So, this is kind of a long-term proposition; Avengers not as strong as Cars but until when the DVD comes out and we get into the Christmas season, it’s way too early to assess this and we have high hopes for not only the films from the individual characters that appear in the movie but that in for the sequel which will come out at that time we haven’t announced yet.

Benjamin Swinburne – Morgan Stanley: Jay, on ESPN, would you be willing to give us the affiliate revenue in the quarter if you exclude the deferral timing or if not, (indiscernible) table which I think will be in the queue. The $100 million cost you called out for Q4, is that a change in the year-over-year expense growth at ESPN what we saw in Q3, because I know obviously have recorded. You have increases in Europe in your licenses?

Jay Rasulo – SEVP and CFO: Sure. Let me take the first half of your question, and then I’ll talk about the $100 million. So Ben relative to our affiliate growth, rate it was pretty large flat versus prior year on a reported basis due to the impact of that contest deferral on and we also had some unfavorable FX stuff in there but the majority of it was the deferral and adjust to the FX rate as well, the Q3 cable affiliate rate growth was very similar to the half of the year which was high single-digits. I think I gave that out in the last call. So, those two factors pretty much account for what looks like a slowdown in the port number.

Benjamin Swinburne – Morgan Stanley: Got it.

Jay Rasulo – SEVP and CFO: On your second question about the $100 million, basically that it really matches the kind of pace of cost growth that we’ve seen which is the sort of low to mid single-digits in cost growth quarter-to-quarter at ESPN, nothing really special there.

Robert A. Iger – President and CEO: That’s Q4 versus prior year event. I want to just provide some perspective on affiliate rate increases, because I know this has gotten some attention this last few weeks, not just for us but across the media sector. When we give a figure of high single-digits, which Jay just gave, you are looking at a blended rate of all of our networks, obviously including ESPN. Because of the size of ESPN sub fees, as you know, we’ve been cautious about how we increase those rates in these new deals that we make given the fact that the fees for ESPN are as high they are, we’re increasing rates on such a high base. The pricing that we get is probably the strongest in terms of a percentage increase is from the other networks led by the Disney Channel. So, we’re getting tremendous price growth in some of the other channels and decent growth in ESPN, but albeit on very, very high base.

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