When Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, spoke to investors and analysts on the company’s third-quarter earnings conference call on Tuesday, CNBC’s Jim Cramer thought he told “an amazing story.”
“The slate of upcoming movies? Blockbuster after blockbuster. Theme parks? Well, … they are firing on all cylinders. Programming? Killer,” the “Mad Money” host said Wednesday. “His vision for merging with the Fox Properties? To me, it looks like it could have growth as far as the eye can see.”
While the entertainment giant missed analysts’ earnings and revenue estimates, the growth in its studio, theme park and broadcasting segments was indeed notable. Year over year, the company said its studio revenue grew 20 percent to $2.88 billion, and its broadcasting business saw staggering 43 percent growth.
But, in keeping with something of a growing theme in Disney’s earnings reports, investors balked at the company’s sports programming results, particularly ESPN Plus, its new over-the-top online streaming service.
Having launched ESPN Plus in April, Iger didn’t offer specific data on the service, instead saying that it is already seeing “strong” conversion rates from free trials to paid subscriptions. He added that subscription growth is exceeding the company’s expectations.
“He basically said, ‘Take my word for it,'” Cramer said. “I am actually happy to take his word for it. Is there any reason not to? Wasn’t Iger the one who first flagged ESPN’s problems with cord-cutting? Wasn’t he up-front about the need to do something? Hasn’t he taken radical action to create value for shareholders?”
But with Disney’s stock sinking 2.21 percent on Wednesday to $113.98 a share, the “Mad Money” host said the decline could stem from one of two things.
“Either Disney’s stock had run too much into the quarter — it was up from $100 at the beginning of June to $116 going into the quarter — or Bob Iger isn’t being given the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “And that’s where the opportunity comes in.”
Cramer advised investors who can afford to take a longer-term position in the stock of Disney to ask themselves: wouldn’t it be worth having some faith that Disney’s many “moving parts” will help boost its stock over the next few years?
“Bob Iger didn’t just fall off a turnip truck. And while Netflix has a lead on them when it comes to the streaming stuff, who says it’s zero-sum?” he asked. “You’ve got plenty of other players in this space — Amazon, YouTube, Apple — why not Disney?”
So as Wall Street weighs which companies and CEOs deserve its faith or not, Cramer told investors not to overlook the stock behind massive franchises like Marvel’s Avengers and globally renowned theme parks like Disneyland.
“Investing is about knowing not just what to believe, but who to believe. That’s why you’ve gotta have faith in Disney,” he said. “At the end of the day, stocks are predicated on faith, but they still have empirical underpinnings.”
contributed to this report.