Disney Weathering Shutdown MUCH Worse Than Rivals Comcast and WarnerMedia

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(Photo Credit: Disney)

Disney is effectively crippled by the theme park shutdown, which more and more analysts are predicting to could last until January 2021.

The company is furloughing off a massive amount of people in divisions unrelated to its theme parks, including people on the studios side. These staff cuts reportedly top 100,000 people.

This has not been the case (yet) for rivals Comcast (Universal) and WarnerMedia. Universal Orlando is cutting pay to 80% for full-timers after April 20, and cutting loose some part-timers.

That’s still arguably better for workers than Disney’s solution, which was to just turn almost everyone loose on April 19 to apply for unemployment. Sure, they keep their medical. But that doesn’t cover the other bills.

What’s the difference between Disney and its competitors?

Almost all of Disney’s key business segments depend on large gatherings of people: theme parks, theatrical releases, sports (ESPN) and cruise lines. All of these are effectively dead in the water at this point, thanks to restrictions on gatherings and non-essential businesses.

We’ve been saying since Day 1 — both here and on our pop culture YouTube channel — that Universal has a leg up on Disney in this regard, as people still pay their Comcast cable and internet bills while in quarantine.

Universal’s Epic Universe construction is reportedly still on track, while there are talks of massive cutbacks in Disney’s parks and construction has halted.

Disney depends on its Parks and Resorts for 35% of its revenue. Theme Parks only make up 5% of revenue for Comcast.

That is a huge, huge difference.

WarnerMedia doesn’t have a dog in this, as they don’t own any theme parks. Warner is owned by AT&T, and like Comcast, people are still paying their phone and TV bills. They’re getting ready to launch HBO Max soon, which many feel is the first legitimate Netflix competitor to enter the streaming wars.

Sure, Disney has Disney Plus, but they’re still in debt from that and it won’t even put a dent in the lost revenue from the Parks. And with WarnerMedia HBO Max and NBC’s Peacock right around the corner, the competition is going to be fierce.

Now CNBC is echoing what theme park insiders have been saying — Disney is positioned much, much worse than its rivals and this shutdown could leaves scars on the company for years to come.

Disney’s extensive furloughs stand in sharp contrast to the other two media giants – Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, and AT&T, which owns WarnerMedia – which haven’t yet announced any furloughs or layoffs.

These are the three largest media conglomerates, in a category above all the others: Disney’s market cap is $185 billion, Comcast’s is $169 billion, and AT&T’s is $222 billion. They do face some similar challenges: all three have movie studios that are suffering from the closure of theaters and all are seeing their ad revenue plummet as live sports has been halted. And all three are working to get ahead of the cord-cutting trend and have new services designed to own that direct-to-consumer relationship.

But the finances of these companies are incredibly different. Parks and Resorts is Disney’s largest division, responsible for 35% of its revenue in 2019. That division includes not only theme parks and resorts, but also a cruise line. In contrast, Comcast derived only 5.4% of its revenue from parks such as Universal Studios, and AT&T doesn’t own any parks.

The Mouse will be down, but not out.

After the country gets through this, we expect to see a much different Disney. A much leaner company that will have to let go of its ambition of “world dominion” and focus on rebuilding its core brand.

What Disney will ultimately look like on the other side is anybody’s guess.

[Sources: FT, CNBC]

A Disney fan, but never a "pixie duster." As a former newspaper editor, web developer, and Disney comics freelancer, I'm able to combine that experience into writing about Disney objectively. I previously built The Kingdom Insider website from the ground up, and was Managing Editor for years. Current co-host of the Clownfish TV YouTube channel. Opinions my own. Yes, they're STRONG ones. Deal with it.