Monday, December 11, 2017
Business

Disney announces new Star Wars trilogy and TV show as well as ESPN streaming service

Disney is doubling down on "Star Wars." On a conference call with analysts Thursday, CEO Bob Iger said that the company is planning a brand-new "Star Wars" trilogy as well as a "Star Wars" series for its Disney streaming service coming in 2019.

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens," released in December 2015, pulled in more than $2 billion in worldwide ticket sales, trailing only "Avatar" and "Titanic" as the best-selling theatrical release ever (without adjusting for inflation). It also bumped up home entertainment revenue from DVD sales. "Rogue One," last year’s installment, made over $1 billion in global box-office revenue.

"The Last Jedi" will continue from where "Force" left off. Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson has a "somewhat conservative" estimate of $1.9 billion in box-office haul for the film. He also expects the latest "Avengers" installment to bring in $1.3 billion.

Big-budget, sequel-generating movies deliver big wins for studios. In fiscal 2016, when Disney released "The Force Awakens," the studio’s profit was $2.7 billion. That’s expected to fall this year and jump back up to $2.84 billion in 2018, thanks to "The Last Jedi" and several Marvel movies. The opening weekend of "Thor: Ragnarok" has already out-earned its 2011 and 2013 predecessors.

In the July-September quarter, however, the studio’s revenue fell 21 percent to $1.43 billion. "Cars 3" wasn’t as big a hit as "Finding Dory" in 2016.

Overall, The Walt Disney Co.’s net income slipped 1 percent to $1.75 billion. Revenue dropped 3 percent to $12.78 billion.

———

DISNEY EMPIRE

Disney is funneling its movie hits to other parts of its sprawling empire to help it make money repeatedly from its intellectual property.

For example, "Star Wars"-themed areas at Disneyland in California and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida will open in 2019.

"They’re huge and I think very exciting in terms of how we’re using technology to create really interesting attractions and experiences," Iger said at a September investment conference.

The company is also planning a "Star Wars"-themed hotel at Walt Disney World in Florida. Disney touts it as an "immersive" experience; guests will be able to dress up as their favorite characters.

Disney is making other big investments in its parks, too, as it races to catch up with Universal’s enormously popular Harry Potter-themed areas. In the latest quarter, revenue rose 6 percent to $4.67 billion, helped by the international parks. In the U.S., Hurricane Irma shut down Walt Disney World for two days, hurting domestic results.

Analysts expect merchandise revenues to get a bump in fiscal 2018; Nathanson cites the "Star Wars" and Marvel movies, as well as "Frozen" coming to Broadway, as drivers.

———

GEARING UP AGAINST NETFLIX

The movies will also serve as a lure for Disney’s streaming service, which will contain hundreds of movies and thousands of TV episodes and shorts. Pixar, "Star Wars" and Marvel films will be included along with Disney-brand video. Disney’s deal with Netflix is expiring and won’t be renewed, making the new service the exclusive online home for much of Disney’s prime content.

Morgan Stanley estimates that the service can, after a decade, become a nearly $5 billion-a-year business, with roughly 30 million subscribers. (Netflix’s streaming revenues for just the last nine months were $8.1 billion, with 109 million subscribers.) Disney will lose out on hundreds of millions from Netflix when it pulls its movies, and UBS estimates that it needs 32 million subscribers for the app just to break even. Disney has not announced pricing.

Disney also plans an ESPN streaming service for next year, which won’t air the same sports as its channel — but one day might. ESPN, long its cash cow, has been losing subscribers as attention shifts online.

In the fiscal fourth quarter, the media networks’ revenue fell 3 percent to $5.47 billion; profit slid 12 percent, to $1.48 billion. At ESPN, content costs rose and ad revenue fell, but Disney wrangled higher payments from cable companies.

Shares were down 3.2 percent to $99.36 in after-hours trading Thursday.

Comments
Tampa: Hundreds protest Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

Tampa: Hundreds protest Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

TAMPA — Hundreds rallied near the University of South Florida on Friday night to protest President Donald Trump’s recent declaration that the United States will recognize the divided city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.The protest was organize...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/09/17

Duke outage leaves 7,700 without power near Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — Up to 7,700 customers across Pinellas Park, Lealman and Kenneth City lost power in a Thursday night outage, according to Duke Energy.The outage impacted a cloverleaf-shaped area of customers, with pedals extending in the cardinal dire...
Published: 12/08/17
Express lanes set to open on Veterans. They’re free -- for now.

Express lanes set to open on Veterans. They’re free -- for now.

TAMPA — Drivers on the Veterans Expressway will gain an extra lane from Gunn Highway to Hillsborough Avenue starting Saturday.But there’s a catch: Once drivers enter the lane, they won’t be able to leave it — not until a designated exit about six mil...
Published: 12/08/17
St. Petersburg chamber of commerce charts ‘Grow Smarter’ economic development strategy

St. Petersburg chamber of commerce charts ‘Grow Smarter’ economic development strategy

Times Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — What started more than five years ago as an exploratory conversation among a handful of business leaders blossomed Friday into a full-blown community discussion of how to nurture business while working to make sure ...
Published: 12/08/17
Visit St. Pete/Clearwater makes Orlando tourists a top target

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater makes Orlando tourists a top target

In a decision driven by some major data crunching, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater next year will focus its tourism advertising on three target markets: Orlando, New York City and its Tampa Bay home."Research is going to dictate our behaviors and direction...
Published: 12/08/17
Having JW Marriott run Water Street Tampa’s new 519-room hotel expected to help Tampa pursue more upscale conventions

Having JW Marriott run Water Street Tampa’s new 519-room hotel expected to help Tampa pursue more upscale conventions

TAMPA — JW Marriott, a luxury hotel brand new to Tampa, will run the new 519-room hotel that the Water Street Tampa project is building next to the Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, developers announced Friday.Construction on the 26-story hotel is ...
Published: 12/08/17

Gravel spill shuts down parts of northbound Howard Frankland Bridge

TAMPA — Authorities are cleaning up a load of gravel spilled onto the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge on Friday afternoon, shutting down at least two lanes of traffic.The incident was reported at 2 p.m. on the stretch of the bridge drivers approac...
Published: 12/08/17
A longer wait: Some now try nearly 3 years to get disability insurance

A longer wait: Some now try nearly 3 years to get disability insurance

By the time Teralyn Fleming could finally plead her case to get federal disability insurance, she had been waiting two years and three months. The wait was not a peaceful one — a blood clotting disorder pushed her out of the workforce in 2015 ...
Published: 12/08/17
Why has bitcoin’s price shot up so fast?

Why has bitcoin’s price shot up so fast?

SAN FRANCISCO — Bitcoin has been in a bull market like few the world has ever seen.At the beginning of the year, the price of a bitcoin was below $1,000. It hit $5,000 in October, then doubled by late November. And on Thursday, less than two weeks la...
Published: 12/08/17
U.S. employers added 228,000 jobs in November, unemployment rate stays at 4.1 percent

U.S. employers added 228,000 jobs in November, unemployment rate stays at 4.1 percent

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added a robust 228,000 jobs in November, a sign of the job market’s enduring strength in its ninth year of economic recovery. The unemployment rate remained at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent, the Labor Department reported F...
Published: 12/08/17