Welcome to DisneyBizJournal.com - News, Analysis and Reviews of the Disney Entertainment Business!

Brought to fans, investors, entrepreneurs, executives, teachers, professors, and students by columnist, economist, novelist, reviewer, podcaster, business reporter and speaker Ray Keating

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Florida Lifts Travel Restrictions for Guests From New York Tri-State Area

by Beth Keating
August 6, 2020

Guests arriving from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut may now have an easier time keeping that Disney World reservation, thanks to the fact that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis today rescinded the 14-day quarantine restrictions on travelers arriving in Florida from those three states.  

But don’t celebrate quite yet – New York’s quarantine restrictions for arrivals from 35 other states including Florida remain in effect. So, New Yorkers might not have to use those 14 days to quarantine when arriving in Florida, but they will upon returning home

In fact, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced yesterday that additional traveler registration check points at major bridge and tunnel entries to New York City will begin operating today (August 6) to ensure quarantine compliance requirements and completion of New York State Department of Health Traveler Forms.

On March 23, with COVID-19 numbers rising across the tri-state region, Florida Governor DeSantis imposed restrictions on people traveling via airplane to Florida from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. He also established checkpoints on highways coming into Florida to inform out-of-state travelers of the mandatory quarantine. In June, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo “returned the favor” by implementing a similar quarantine restriction on travel from Florida, one of the first states to make it to New York’s list, although there are now 35 states under travel restrictions.  New York’s Executive Order is based on a seven-day rolling average of positive tests in excess of 10%, or number of positive cases exceeding 10 per 100,000 residents, and imposes fines of $10,000 for individuals who fail to quarantine.

So, instead of blocking out more than a full month (33 days) for a five day trip to Disney (14 days in Florida quarantine, 5 days in Disney, and 14 days of quarantine upon returning home), New Yorkers now only have to set aside just under three weeks (19 days) for a 5 day Disney getaway (5 days in Disney, and 14 days of quarantine upon returning home). 

How badly do you want that Dole Whip?


Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Chapek: The New Content Guy?

by Ray Keating
August 5, 2020

Will Bob Chapek be more of a content guy than Bob Iger was as CEO of Disney?

I ask this question largely due to a feel I got listening to Chapek on the Disney earnings call yesterday.

Chapek’s excitement about the direct-to-consumer (DTC) future of the company was palpable. In particular, he seemed to get most animated talking about bringing new content to Disney+. As he put it, “new hot tentpole content” is what drives new subscribers.

That was a slightly different emphasis than what we largely heard from Iger since Disney+ was first announced and launched in November. No doubt that Iger recognized and spoke of the importance of new content for Disney+, but Iger also was somewhat cautious about overly emphasizing the importance of new content, usually preferring to reference the vast existing Disney library serving as a foundation for Disney+. 

Of course, Iger was right about the Disney library serving as the foundation for Disney+, but Chapek also is correct in understanding that while the existing library will make, and has made, Disney a top streaming player, that library must be expanded significantly in order to generate the excitement needed to push Disney+ into the same category as Netflix.

Chapek highlighted the arrival this fall of both the second season of The Mandalorian and the new The Right Stuff series to Disney+. He also mentioned that Marvel shows are ready to resume production. And we know that other Marvel and Star Wars projects will be coming to Disney+ as well.

While it might just be a stylistic difference between Chapek and Iger, Chapek came across yesterday as a streaming racehorse, anxiously waiting for this pandemic to pass so that the gates can spring open, unleashing his company’s considerable resources on new content. If that’s the case, Disney+ subscribers, and company shareholders, might have reason to be excited about the Chapek era.


Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Also, get the paperback or Kindle edition of Ray Keating’s new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Disney Earnings Call: “Mulan” Arriving on Sept. 4 as a Disney+ Extra, Disney+ Subscribers Up, Earnings Down

by Ray Keating
August 4, 2020

Disney’s earnings report today provided additional information about how hard the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the company, and how much the company is pushing direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming. That importance of this combination came through loud and clear when Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced that Mulan would be released on September 4 as a premiere access event priced at $29.99 on Disney+.

Disney+ subscribers now top 60.5 million – far exceeding expectations. Disney’s combined streaming subscriber numbers – that is, including Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ - exceeds 100 million.

As of June 27, 2020, Hulu subscribers came in at 35.5 million and ESPN+ at 8.5 million.

On the earnings front, Disney suffered a loss in third quarter ending June 27, 2020, of $2.61 diluted earnings per share (that is, earnings per share if all convertible securities, including, for example, stock options and warrants, were exercised) compared to income of $0.79 for the prior-year quarter. For the nine months ending June 27, Disney experienced a loss of $1.17 versus income of $5.97 in the prior-year period. After adjusting certain items for comparability, diluted EPS for the latest quarter was down by 94 percent to $0.08 from $1.34 in the prior year.

Obviously, this biggest hit came in the theme parks area, with Disney reporting, “The most significant impact was at the Parks, Experiences and Products segment as most of our theme parks and resorts were closed for the entire quarter and our cruise ship sailings were suspended.” Specifically, it was noted, “Parks, Experiences and Products revenues for the quarter decreased 85% to $1.0 billion, and segment operating results decreased $3.7 billion to a loss of $2.0 billion. Lower operating results for the quarter were due to decreases at both the domestic and international parks and experiences businesses and to a lesser extent, at our merchandise licensing and retail businesses.”

It was clear in Chapek’s comments that the big push at Disney is on the DTC front, especially with Disney+. And while the premiere access of Mulan on Disney+ was called a “one off” by Chapek, he also highlighted this as an opportunity to learn. Indeed, it appeared that Chapek was very interested in pay-per-view offerings on Disney’s own streaming service.

Oh yes, and Bob Iger wasn’t on the call. Chapek was flying solo.


Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of thePastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Also, get the paperback or Kindle edition of Ray Keating’s new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York.

Monday, August 3, 2020

From King of Disney Streaming to TikTok Troubles: The Strange Journey of Kevin Mayer

by Ray Keating
August 3, 2020

It’s been a wild eight-plus months for Kevin Mayer, the former head of Disney’s streaming business.

In November of last year, Disney+ launched to great acclaim, and subscriber numbers ran far ahead of expectations. The new streaming service and Hulu were under the leadership of Mayer at the Walt Disney Company. He was riding high, and most watchers expected him to be named Bob Iger’s successor to run the entire House of Mouse empire.

However, Iger and Disney surprised just about everyone in February, when Iger announced he was stepping down immediately as CEO, and Bob Chapek – not Mayer – was named to run the Walt Disney Company.

About three months later, on May 18, Mayer announced that he was resigning from Disney to take the job of CEO of TikTok, the app for easily making and sharing short videos, as well as chief operating officer of the app’s parent company, ByteDance, a Beijing-based company.

It’s not unusual for a key executive passed over for the C-Suite to leave for another position. But Mayer had one of the best streaming jobs at the top entertainment company on the planet. And while TikTok had gained enormous popularity – though largely among teens – there were questions about the company. And those questions have only multiplied since Mayer became CEO at the app.

The combination of TikTok’s wild popularity and the fact that it is a Chinese company, with potential exposure to informational demands and controls by the Chinese communist government, makes for an uncertain future, to say the least. The U.S. federal government has national security concerns, and has unleashed attacks on TikTok, with President Trump threatening to shut it down in the U.S. The Indian government already has banned TikTok in that country. 

Clearly, TikTok was hoping that hiring Mayer, as an American CEO, would help, along with Mayer’s U.S.-China experience given the fact that Disney is deeply involved in China, with parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong. 

In fact, the ByteDance founder, Zhang Yiming, took certain structural precautions with his company hoping to avoid political woes. The New York Times reported:

He made TikTok unavailable in China so the video app’s users wouldn’t be subject to the Communist Party’s censorship requirements. He stored user data in Virginia and Singapore. He hired managers in the United States to run the app and lobbyists in Washington to fight for it on Capitol Hill. None of that counted for much in the end.

In the U.S., the politics have swung between Trump threatening to close the app down to the president being open to Microsoft buying the U.S. business of TikTok. And in a still more bizarre and unprecedented twist, President Trump wants the U.S. Treasury to receive “a lot of money” for “making it possible for this deal to happen.” 

According to The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft not only is interested in TikTok’s U.S. business, but talks also are covering the app’s business in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. September 15 stands as the target date, for now, to get a deal done. Microsoft apparently is enticed by the idea of expanding its business to young consumers, given the company’s success in recent years with corporate customers.

Whether a Microsoft deal gets done or not, either outcome presents further uncertainty for Mayer. If Microsoft purchases this chunk of TikTok, one would think that Mayer would go with the U.S. part of the business. And then one has to wonder if Microsoft would want to keep Mayer in the top spot at the U.S. version of TikTok. If so, he would suddenly be back running one part of a larger business. If the Microsoft deal doesn’t materialize and the app gets shutdown in the U.S., what value would Mayer then bring to TikTok?

So, many questions and unknowns loom for a guy who, just a few months ago, was one of the top players in online streaming. Indeed, Mayer has gone from the heights of playing a key role at one of the world’s top brands – Disney – to now slogging around in the muck of political controversy in the U.S., China and India. You have to wonder if Mayer is wondering.

In the end, Kevin Mayer might still emerge from this seeming mess sitting pretty – perhaps leading a Microsoft effort to compete with Facebook. But right now, it seems that leaving the leading streaming gig at Disney might not have been the best choice for Mr. Mayer.


Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Also, get the paperback or Kindle edition of Ray Keating’s new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Magic Kingdom is Number One Everywhere in the World!

by Beth Keating
August 2, 2020

It’s a topic that Disney fans argue about endlessly: Which amusement park is number one? Of course, for Disney fans, the argument is usually about which Disney park is number one among Disney’s parks. (For good measure, many would also argue that Disney parks are theme parks, not amusement parks, in the strictest sense of the word.)

Source: Disney Parks Blog

Be that as it may, TripAdvisor has named five Disney parks to their 2020 Travelers' Choice Best of the Best Awards in the “Top 25 Amusement Parks-United States” category, with Magic Kingdom taking the top spot. (Told you so, Ray… see DisneyBizJournal’s debate here!) 

On the international side, seven Disney Parks make the cut for the 2020 Travelers' Choice Best of the Best Awards in the “Top 25 Amusement Parks - World” categorywith Magic Kingdom once again wearing the crown.

“Every year, we pull together all the reviews, ratings, and saves that travelers share from across the globe — and use that info to spotlight the very best,” reports TripAdvisor. “The Travelers' Choice Best of the Best awards celebrates them all.”

On the 2020 “United States” list, Magic Kingdom ranks #1, with Animal Kingdom coming in at #3, Disneyland California #7, Hollywood Studios at #8, and Disney California Adventure at #10. On the “World” list, Magic Kingdom still reigns supreme at the #1 spot, with Animal Kingdom jumping in at #4 internationally, Disneyland California at #11, Hollywood Studios at #12, Disney California Adventure at #15, Hong Kong Disneyland at #20, and Disneyland Paris at #21.

But wait! There are more Disney Parks topping the lists. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon takes the top spot on the “Top 25 Water Parks-United States” with Blizzard Beach swimming up behind it at #2.  Alas, though, they didn’t fare as well internationally.  Typhoon Lagoon only makes it to #6 and Blizzard Beach plummets to #19 on the “Top 25 Water Parks – World” list. (Siam Park in Spain takes #1.)

For your debate knowledge, here’s the complete list of the “Top 25 Amusement Parks-United States”:

1.    Magic Kingdom Park (Orlando, FL)
2.    Universal’s Islands of Adventure (Orlando, FL)
3.    Disney’s Animal Kingdom (Orlando, FL)
4.    Universal Studios Florida (Orlando, FL)
5.    Universal Studios Hollywood (Los Angeles, CA)
6.    Dollywood (Pigeon Forge, TN)
7.    Disneyland Park (Anaheim, CA)
8.    Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Orlando, FL)
9.    Silver Dollar City (Branson, MO)
10. Disney California Adventure Park (Anaheim, CA)
11. Bay Beach Amusement Park (Green Bay, WI)
12. Fun Spot America (Kissimmee, FL)
13. Knoebels Amusement Park (Elysburg, PA)
14. Santa’s Village (Jefferson, NH)
15. Seabreeze Amusement Park (Rochester, NY)
16. Busch Gardens (Tampa, FL)
17. Funland (Rehoboth Beach, DE)
18. Dutch Wonderland (Lancaster, PA)
19. Canobie Lake Park (Salem, NH)
20. Silverwood Theme Park (Athol, ID)
21. Kentucky Kingdom (Louisville, KY)
22. Nickelodeon Universe (Bloomington, MN)
23. Busch Gardens Williamsburg (Williamsburg, VA)
24. Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH)
25. LEGOLAND California (Carlsbad, CA)

Now you have a whole new set of Bucket Lists to follow.


Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Disney and Former Mighty Ducks Fan Says Welcome Back to the NHL

by Chris Lucas
Guest Column
August 1, 2020

Welcome back NHL!

Though I’m not the biggest hockey fan in the world, I’m surrounded by lots of them, so I do appreciate the game. 

My older brother, Eddie, is a diehard New York Rangers fan - as are most of the kids he played street hockey with in Jersey City. My younger brothers, and a lot of my friends, are New Jersey Devils fans. There are a few Islanders fans scattered here and there, too.

As for me, I went with Disney. 

When the Mighty Ducks morphed from kids movie to a real franchise in 1993, I became a hockey fan, wearing all the Mighty Ducks gear. 

I was the only one wearing it, and boy, did I get mocked at Madison Square Garden and the Brendan Byrne Arena. That was the same time that the Rangers and Devils were winning Stanley Cups, so I picked a good time to follow the sport.

In 2003, the Mighty Ducks made it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. The game was being played just five miles from my house! I put on my gear and bluffed my way in, landing seats right behind the Ducks bench. I even got to hang out with Wild Wing, their mascot, only to watch them lose to the Devils.

Like almost everyone else in Jersey City, I did get a picture with Lord Stanley’s Cup, since the Devils brought it around to so many bars and events.

My boys have gone to a handful of hockey games, but they haven’t expressed an interest in a team or the game yet. Me? I stopped following the Ducks after Disney sold them in 2005 and they dropped the “Mighty” part. (Though they did win the Cup in 2007.)

Looking forward to seeing the pucks drop! 


On the PRESS CLUB C Podcast, enjoy Ray’s recent discussion with Chris Lucas about his career as an actor, author and Disney expert. Tune in right here!

Friday, July 31, 2020

Disney’s Pre-Pandemic Strategy Reflected in Down Attendance in 2019

by Ray Keating



July 31, 2020


Earlier this month, the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) released its annual report on global attractions attendance for 2019. While Disney obviously remained the theme parks powerhouse regarding attendance – with its various parks around the world pulling in an estimated 155.99 million guests – its overall attendance in 2019 actually declined slightly (falling by 0.8 percent) versus 2018.

This small decline in 2019 attendance actually was part of Disney’s strategy, as opposed to the 2020 phenomenon of a pandemic closing parks, and crushing attendance, revenues and profits. As noted in the TEA report, “Disney’s domestic park attendance numbers were flat overall for 2019 compared to the previous year which could be attributed to the operator emphasizing its yield strategy by prioritizing the quality of guest experience and per caps. This operating model has emerged over the last decade and will likely serve operators well moving forward, with respect to capacity limitations in parks and the continued need to stay competitive.” Or, as stated in an Associated Press story, “The flat attendance is likely due to an effort by Disney to limit entry, while charging higher prices, so that visitors have a more enjoyable experience…”


Here's a rundown in Disney’s 2019 attendance figures.


• Among amusement/theme parks in North America, Disney parks filled the top five spots, as well as number eight: 


1) Magic Kingdom attendance was up by 0.5 percent in 2019, registering 20,963,000 compared to 20,859,000 in 2018. 


2) Disneyland (California) attendance saw no growth in 2019, registering 18,666,000 in both 2019 and 2018. 


3) Animal Kingdom attendance was up by 1.0 percent in 2019, registering 13,888,000 compared to 13,750,000 in 2018. 


4) Epcot attendance was unchanged in 2019, registering 12,444,000 in both 2019 and 2018.


5) Hollywood Studios attendance was up by 2.0 percent in 2019, registering 11,483,000 compared to 11,258,000 in 2018. 


8) Disney California Adventure attendance was unchanged in 2019, registering 9,861,000 in both 2019 and 2018. 


• Disney World’s two water parks ranked one and two in terms of attendance among water parks in North America: 


1) Typhoon Lagoon attendance fell by 1.0 percent in 2019, registering 2,248,000 compared to 2,271,000 in 2018.


2) Blizzard Beach attendance also declined by 1.0 percent in 2019, coming in at 1,983,000 versus 2,003,000 in 2018.


• In the Asia-Pacific region, Disney claimed four of the top ten parks in terms of attendance:


1) Tokyo Disneyland attendance saw no effective growth in 2019, registering 17,910,000 compared to 17,907,000 in 2018.


2) Tokyo DisneySea attendance also was effectively flat in 2019, coming in at 14,650,000 versus 14,651,000 in 2018.


5) Shanghai Disneyland attendance was down by 5.0 percent in 2019, coming in at 11,210,000 versus 11,800,000 in 2018.


10) Hong Kong Disneyland attendance dropped by 15.0 percent in 2019, registering 5,695,000 versus 6,700,000 in 2018, thanks to protests against the infringement of the communist government in Beijing on the governance of Hong Kong.


• In Europe, Disney claimed two of the top four spots in terms of attendance:


1) Disneyland Paris saw attendance decline by 1.0 percent in 2019, coming in at 9,745,000 versus 9,843,000 in 2018.


4) Walt Disney Studios Paris also saw an attendance decline of 1.0 percent in 2019, registering 5,245,000 compared to 5,298,000 in 2018.


The Disney strategy of enhancing profitability by increasing prices, investing in park upgrades, and improving the guest experience wasn’t a secret, and the 2019 attendance numbers line up with this strategy. 


The question now is, of course, what happens to such a strategy during and after a global pandemic? Barring a complete snap back in terms of attendance once vaccines and therapeutics reach the market, it would seem that, at least for a short period of time, Disney will need to offer more price breaks and slow some capital investments until attendance, revenue and profits return to where the company and its shareholders wish to see them.




Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.


Also, get the paperback or Kindle edition of Ray Keating’s new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York.


Thursday, July 30, 2020

PRESS CLUB C Podcast with Ray Keating – Episode #23: Feeling a Sense of Place

After a recent visit to the campus of the University of Notre Dame, Ray started reflecting on why certain places hold meaning for individuals. So, Ray rambles on in this episode about a sense of place, why we might feel it (perhaps, at first glance, inexplicably), and his top 10 spots that give him a sense of place - and yes, Walt Disney World is among those 10! Tune in here!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Walt Disney, Little Red Riding Hood, Bankruptcy and Beyond!

by Chris Lucas
Guest Column
July 29, 2020

Walt Disney’s very first full length (more than a minute long) cartoon - Laugh-O-Grams' Little Red Riding Hood - was released on this day in 1922.

Source: Top Disney

Walt was only 20 years old, but he taught himself the basics of animation by reading library books and established a film studio - Laugh-O-Grams - in Kansas City. His first big commission was for the Newman Theatre. 

Little Red Riding Hood took six months to make. Walt wrote, produced and directed it, while Rudolph Ising did most of the animation with him.

In all, seven full length cartoon fairy tales were made by Laugh-O-Grams before the company went bankrupt in 1923.

Source: Top Disney

Walt didn’t let the failure and doubters deter him, though. He used that “kick in the teeth,” as he put it, to spur him on to bigger and better things. He got on a train to California and never looked back.


On the PRESS CLUB C Podcast, enjoy Ray’s recent discussion with Chris Lucas about his career as an actor, author and Disney expert. Tune in right here!

Streaming Review: “12 Monkeys” – Engrossing Time-Travel Sci-Fi with Stellar Character Development

by Ray Keating
July 29, 2020

Much can be appreciated about Disney taking full control of Hulu. First, there’s the affordable streaming combo deal of Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+. Second, Hulu allows Disney to offer some intriguing storytelling that otherwise wouldn’t fit the purely wholesome Disney brand on Disney+. And finally, as publisher and writer for DisneyBizJournal.com, there’s not only more to write about from a business perspective regarding Hulu, but as a reviewer as well.

That last point brings me to my recent streaming of 12 Monkeys, a series that originally aired for four seasons on SyFy from 2015 to 2018. When on SyFy, the series had caught my attention, but I just never got around to watching it. And now with it streaming on Hulu and there being a pandemic, I finally settled in to watch. And I’m exceedingly pleased that I did. This is a rich, entertaining series in a variety of ways.

The basic idea is that a deadly plague hits (yeah, I know) and winds up wiping out more than 96 percent of the human race. However, a man named Cole, from a post-apocalyptic future, takes part in a dangerous attempt at time travel in the hopes of stopping the plague before it starts, and thereby saving 7 billion people.

If you enjoy time travel, including an assortment of time twisting and paradoxical moments, then 12 Monkeys is for you. After having watched the series, I feel like I need to review how an assortment of time bending moments fit into the overarching story. (I’m sure someone has provided such a time map, and I need only track it down online.) One of the nice touches in 12 Monkeys is the grittiness of the time machine and time travel itself, as well as the moral and ethical conundrums that emerge, and how different characters react to such scenarios.

But no matter the genre – from time-traveling sci-fi to Westerns – key requirements of good storytelling remain rather consistent, including an engrossing tale and interesting characters that the audience cares about one way or another. 

Another crucial story ingredient too often missing in episodic television is substantive character development. While long-form television storytelling featuring notable character development existed before, it was something of an exception. Cable channels and then streaming services allowed it to truly flourish.

12 Monkeys manages to pull in each of these story essentials. The characters are interesting and earn viewers’ attention. They include James Cole (Aaron Stanford), Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), Katarina Jones (Barbara Sukowa), Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), Jose Ramse (Kirk Acevedo), and Deacon (Todd Stashwick), along with others. 

To say that each of these characters goes on a journey of development over four seasons would be to understate matters. Each experiences dramatic ups and downs along the way, and winds up being, or being revealed as, a very different person at the end of the story than who we met at the outset. Indeed, the fact that these engrossing transformations or revelations are achieved for so many characters in 12 Monkeys is a tribute to the show’s creators, writers, directors and actors.

Finally, how many times have you been swept up in a long-form series only to have it cancelled on a cliffhanger (see another SyFy show Dark Matter) or you wind up with an inexplicably disappointing, underwhelming or perplexing ending (see Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle)? No worries about that with 12 Monkeys. I will in no way reveal anything about the ending, except that it ranked as one of the best endings to a series I’ve seen.

So, go watch 12 Monkeys on Hulu, and enjoy – despite it being about a pandemic.


Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Also, get the paperback or Kindle edition of Ray Keating’s new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York.