ESPN Losses Drag Down Disney

Has Disney gotten enough social justice yet? How about more anti-American anthem kneelers? How much more will it take?

Overall, it was a weak fiscal fourth quarter for Burbank-based Disney, which reported net income of $1.75 billion, down 1% from a year earlier. Revenue declined 3% and the company failed to meet analysts’ expectations.

The company’s media networks unit — whose crown jewel is ESPN — had a tough quarter, reporting segment operating income of $1.48 billion, a drop of 12% from a year earlier. Its operating income declined on a year-over-year basis for the sixth quarter in a row.

Within the unit’s cable networks group, which houses ESPN, segment operating income declined 1% to $1.24 billion. Disney attributed the drop, in part, to lower advertising revenue at ESPN and higher programming costs for the network, which pays a premium to carry National Football League and Major League Baseball games.

Fewer viewers are tuning in. Ratings are down. And NFL brand approval is at a low.

Disney's own commitment to injecting politics into its entertainment isn't having a noticeable effect. Parents will take their little girls to see Beauty and the Beast no matter what social justice content Disney injects. Likewise the new Star Wars movie and the latest Marvel movie won't go begging. But football has its own culture. And hating America is bad for business there.