Disney tops earnings estimates ahead of streaming launch

The entertainment giant expects revenue in the current quarter to be boosted by the final installment of the ‘Star Wars’ film saga. (AFP)
Updated 10 November 2019

Disney tops earnings estimates ahead of streaming launch

  • Revenues in the past quarter were boosted by a 52 percent rise in Disney’s studio operation
  • Disney has become the biggest Hollywood player with the acquisition of studio and TV assets from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox

SAN FRANCISCO: Walt Disney on Thursday reported better-than-expected quarterly results, fueled by the release of blockbuster films “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” as it prepared for its new streaming television service.
Disney profit in the recently ended quarter was $1.05 billion, down from $2.3 billion a year ago, on revenue that grew 34 percent to $19.1 billion.
The slump in profits came as Disney absorbed key film and television operations of 21st Century Fox and geared up for its launch of the streaming service Disney+ that aims to compete globally against Netflix and others.
“We’ve spent the last few years completely transforming The Walt Disney Company to focus the resources and immense creativity across the entire company on delivering an extraordinary direct-to-consumer experience,” said Disney chief executive Robert Iger.
“We’re excited for the launch of Disney+ on November 12.”
Iger said the company reached a deal for the service to be on Amazon’s Fire TV platform, the latest distribution agreement for Disney+.
Disney shares were up more than five percent in after-market trading following release of the earnings figures.
Revenues in the past quarter were boosted by a 52 percent rise in Disney’s studio operations with box office hits “The Lion King,” “Toy Story 4” and “Aladdin” fueling gains.
The entertainment giant expects revenue in the current quarter to be boosted by the forthcoming release of a sequel to “Frozen” and the final installment of the “Star Wars” film saga.
It will thereafter take a “hiatus” from “Star Wars” box office films but has an array of spin-off shows planned exclusively for its streaming service.
Disney has become the biggest Hollywood player with the acquisition of studio and TV assets from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.
However, integrating Fox into Disney has cost more than expected and the newly added studios have brought in less money than hoped.
Disney saw smaller revenue gains in its cable and broadcasting operations as well as its theme park division.
Iger would not disclose details of pre-sales of Disney+ subscriptions, but said the price — $6.99 monthly — has met with “great enthusiasm” by consumers.
The Disney+ online streaming service will debut in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands before gradually expanding internationally in Europe then rolling out worldwide.
Its films and TV shows will be available, along with the library it acquired from 21st Century Fox. That includes the “Star Wars” and Marvel superhero franchises and ABC television content.
Disney+ will also combine offerings from powerhouse brands including Pixar, with content from Hulu and sports network ESPN.
Apple last week launched a streaming television service that features a budding library of original shows starring big-name celebrities, aimed at winning over its gadget lovers at home and on the go.
The Apple TV+ on-demand streaming service launched in more than 100 countries at $4.99 per month.
Original Apple TV+ shows have so far been met with lukewarm early reviews, but the low subscription price and an offer of year-long memberships free with purchase of the company’s devices was expected to encourage viewers to tune in.
Netflix, meanwhile, has budgeted $15 billion this year for original shows, on top of the billions it has devoted to exclusive productions in recent years.
Amazon, which has deep pockets thanks to its e-commerce and cloud services, has also poured cash into original shows for its Prime Video service.
This sets up a potential spending war among the major streaming players, according to analysts.
Even more competition looms on the horizon, with AT&T’s Warner Media to launch its “HBO Max” in early 2020 after reclaiming the rights from Netflix to stream its popular television comedy “Friends.”
NBCUniversal’s Peacock service is also launching next year.


Young Saudi’s opera singing journey leads him to Italy

Mohammed Al-Zahrani’s adventure started in school, where a classmate encouraged him to refine his talent. (Supplied)
Updated 28 min 7 sec ago

Young Saudi’s opera singing journey leads him to Italy

  • Performer wants to be as famous as Pavarotti

JEDDAH: Mohammed Al-Zahrani has faced down many challenges while pursuing his dream to be an opera singer and represent Saudi Arabia on the world stage, and his journey has led him to Italy, where he is living in Rome and learning the language.

“I have encountered many social and traditional barriers but I luckily managed to overcome those obstacles,” the 23-year-old performing artist told Arab News.
“The objection of my family, relatives and friends was a result of their unawareness about other cultures. They are very strict and conservative people who adhere to customs and traditions.” But their stance has softened since he landed in Europe. “At such a young age, I am living far away from my own country and family just to represent my country the best way I can.”
His adventure started in school, where a classmate heard him sing and encouraged him to refine his talent. It was then that he believed he could be an international opera singer. “That was a dream and I am now working on that dream.”
The Italians were friendly and welcoming, he said, and his cultural and religious background has never proved to be an issue. They were polite and nice, regarding him as an ambitious and talented person who shared their love of art.
“I want to help spread this beautiful art in Saudi Arabia and change our people’s perception about all kinds of Western arts. Also, I would like to open an opera house in my country and lend a hand to those willing to learn classical arts.”
Al-Zahrani has joined the Coro Polifonico Musica Creator choir. He said that the story began when he was waiting for a train in Rome and saw a man playing piano at the station.

I have encountered many social and traditional barriers but I luckily managed to overcome those obstacles.

Mohammed Al-Zahrani, Performer

“I noticed that the music he was playing was familiar. I approached him and began to sing. I was just trying to pass time until the train arrived. It turned out that one of the passengers was a member of the choir. She asked for my phone number and arranged a meeting with the director of the choir.”
The director listened to Al-Zahrani sing a few days later and expressed her interest in his voice.
“She immediately chose me as a solo singer in the choir and insisted I take part in an upcoming concert. I remember I was playing an assisting role to the famous singer Francesco Sartori.”
Al-Zahrani is a fan of famous opera singers and wants to become as great as they are one day, listing Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli as his favorites.
But some Saudis have disagreed with Al-Zahrani’s decision to drop out of college — he spent one year at King Abdul Aziz University — saying he has put his future at risk.
“Wherever you go, there are always people with you and those who are against you. Personally, I will do what I am convinced with no matter what their opinions are,” he said.
Al-Zahrani performed at Riyadh Season and has been invited to perform in other Saudi festivals, including the coming Jeddah Season. “No matter what support I receive or individual successes I make, I will always be in need of my country’s encouragement and support.”
Saudi Arabia’s first opera house is set to open in Jeddah, the General Entertainment Authority announced last February. It is scheduled for completion in 2022.