EmptyDisney increased revenue and operating profit by nearly 6% during the first nine months of 2008, but as of Friday, shares were off 30% for the year as investors wonder what the company is capable of during a recession. Disney execs have hinted at layoffs if the economy doesn't improve.
Financially, ABC was strong, even though some promising shows didn't pan out and overall ratings have been average. Disney's weakest link in 2008 was its film studio, where revenue and operating profit are down more than 3%. Plus, the studio is abandoning its "Narnia" franchise after the first movie scored a domestic boxoffice tally of $291.7 million in 2005; this year's installment was nowhere near that. Among Disney's 2009 film efforts will be "G-Force" and "Race to Witch Mountain."
Look for Disney Channel to keep churning out hits, like the recent "Suite Life on Deck," and watch whether "Wizards of Waverly Place" can maintain its newly established ratings lead over "Hannah Montana." Disney also has high hopes that a Jonas Brothers TV show next year can propel that brand to new heights: In 2008, the boy band scored a remarkable six consecutive No. 1 singles on iTunes.
As for theme parks, Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida is confident that an "American Idol" attraction will pack 'em in, but overall the unit remains a recession-plagued wild card. That's why the company will provide free admission to guests who are celebrating a birthday.