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Earnings: Can ESPN Score More Subscribers for DIS?

It was a year ago that Robert Iger, chief executive of The Walt Disney Co. DIS 0.26%, stunned analysts and investors with news that its crown jewel, ESPN, was losing subscribers for what may well have been the first time in its 36-year history. This proved to be a drag on shares, which tumbled better than 12% on the news. What’s happened since then?

Unbundling, or what the industry refers to as “skinny bundling” with smaller offerings, and a not-too-pleasant distribution dispute between DIS and Verizon are still at issue, analysts say. When DIS reports its results after the bell Tuesday, analysts may see what the diet of skinny bundling did to the House of Mouse’s bottom line.

But there are other divisions rocking at DIS, most notably its $5.5 billion theme park in Shanghai that opened in June to more than 1 million visitors in the first month. Also, the company’s blockbuster results from movies such as “Finding Dory,” Zootopia,” and “Junglebook” might help overshadow lackluster results out of the likes of “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” Then there’s the robust sales of recently released DVDs like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and the sales for toys, games, and other merchandise tied to movies.

Still, many eyes and ears will be on ESPN’s results, though its subscriber numbers have stabilized, analysts say. Has DIS figured out a way to bring luster back into the crown jewel? And what about issues like the Zika virus popping up in Florida cities and that horrible alligator incident? Are those hurting tourist turnouts?

Analysts reporting to Thomson Reuters have forecast per-share earnings of $1.61, up more than 11% over the year-ago profit of $1.45 per share. Revenues are projected to climb better than 8% to $14.16 billion from $13.1 billion a year ago.

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