If Netflix is one of the companies better suited to thriving within or despite the special circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney is certainly at the other end of that spectrum. With theme parks and retail stores closed, cruises suspended, and movie theaters shuttered, the media and entertainment giant from Burbank, California has been hit on multiple fronts by the ongoing crisis.
“The impact of COVID-19 and measures to prevent its spread are affecting our segments in a number of ways, most significantly at Parks, Experiences and Products,” the company wrote in its earnings report for the quarter ended March 28, 2020. “We have closed our theme parks and retail stores, suspended cruise ship sailings and guided tours and experienced supply chain disruptions. In addition, we have delayed, or in some cases, shortened or cancelled theatrical releases and suspended stage play performances at Studio Entertainment and have seen advertising sales impacts at Media Networks and Direct-to-Consumer & International.”
Taking all these adverse effects into account, Disney estimates the impact of COVID-19 on its operating profit for the quarter at $1.4 billion, of which the Parks, Experiences and Products segment bore the lion’s share ($1.0 billion). As bad as this sounds, things might get significantly worse for Disney before they get better. The results only include few weeks affected by the global lockdown, whereas the ongoing quarter will be hit with the full force of crisis.
Despite the difficult circumstances, Disney's leadership tried to convey a message of optimism to its shareholders. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has had an appreciable financial impact on a number of our businesses, we are confident in our ability to withstand this disruption and emerge from it in a strong position,” said Bob Chapek, the company’s newly appointed CEO. Bob Iger, Chapek’s predecessor and now Executive Chairman sounded a similar note: “As someone who has been around for a while and led this company through some really tough days over the last 15 years, including economic downturns, natural disasters and other unforeseen events, I have absolute confidence in our ability to get through this challenging period and recover successfully,” Iger said.