Media giant Walt Disney Co
The company broke out ESPN revenue and earnings from 2022 and 2023 year-to-date on Wednesday and will present the business separate from entertainment going forward.
Here's what analysts are saying about the ESPN financials and Disney looking forward:
Macquarie on Disney: The ESPN numbers were similar to what was expected, but the insight into the real numbers is "intriguing," Macquarie analyst Tim Nollen said.
Nollen, who had a Neutral rating and price target of $94 on Disney, sized up the strength of the ESPN brand and sports segment.
Year-to-date, the sports segment, which was the majority represented by ESPN, had revenue of $13.2 billion and operating income of $1.5 billion. The ESPN+ streaming platform had $1.25 billion in revenue in the first nine months of the fiscal year based on estimates from the analyst.
ESPN represented around 55% of Disney's Linear Networks revenue.
"But ESPN generated $8.1 billion in affiliate fees vs. $5.6 billion at the other Disney channels in the U.S. and international, and nearly the same advertising," Nollen said.
The analyst said this spoke to the value of ESPN. While sports revenue was trending down, it was still doing better than the other linear networks for the company.
"This update can help set some expectations for both an eventual ESPN OTT service's financials and can help set some parameters around valuation of any possible asset divestures, as Disney has acknowledged could be on the cards."
Morgan Stanley on Disney: Historical financials from ESPN provide a look at the potential growth of ESPN, Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne said.
Swinburne, who had an Overweight rating and price target of $105 on Disney, said the new disclosure was "highly informative."
"ESPN has been more stable than expected, now can it grow again?" Swinburne asked.
In the first nine months of the current fiscal year, revenue for ESPN was up 3%. Swinburne said that while this growth was modest, it was significantly higher than the overall U.S. linear TV market for Disney and overall.
"As Disney prepares to both bring on strategic/equity partners and launch ESPN DTC, we believe its ambitions are to growth the business over time."
The analyst said this will not be an easy task given current television trends.
"However, it is starting off on a more stable base than we had expected and should benefit from broadly rising engagement levels across both its live content and shoulder programming."
The analyst said reports put a valuation of $25 to $35 billion on ESPN, which with the new financials, could offer valuation estimates for other business segments that could be on the chopping block.
"Disney management has publicly discussed it is open to strategic options for these profitable but typically declining entertainment networks."
Swinburne added that there could be complexities in selling certain business segments such as FX and ABC given their relationships with Hulu and ESPN respectively.
What's Next: Disney will report fourth-quarter financial results after market close on Nov. 9. The company will break out sports and entertainment separately under the Media & Entertainment segment moving forward.
DIS Price Action: Disney shares were $83.25 at market close Thursday versus a 52-week trading range of $78.73 to $118.18.