With Walt Disney stock plunging, CEO Bob Iger said Wednesday the company’s warning about its cable business was about being honest with investors.
“Our business has performed extremely well, and we have a very, very strong outlook going forward, but we felt that given the importance of ESPN to the company and cable networks in general, it was important for us to be candid about what we see in the environment. Simple as that,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”
“We are very bullish about our cable business, and we’re very bullish about ESPN,” he added.
Disney on Tuesday posted quarterly earnings that topped Wall Street estimates, but revenue came in below projections as international theme park growth slowed.
Shares sank more than 8 percent Wednesday morning, a day after executives reined in expectations for television subscribers as consumers move away from traditional cable packages. (Click here for the latest price.)
In the company’s conference call, Iger detailed subscriber losses for crucial television channels, including ESPN, and the “continued development” of new TV alternatives.
Iger declined to comment on whether Disney is being forced to cut highly recognized talent on ESPN such as Keith Olbermann as its costs go up and subscriber numbers fall. He said the company expects all of its businesses to operate at peak efficiency.
“That means that each one of our businesses are going to go through periods where they take a harder look at their expense side and essentially make cuts to run more efficiently,” he said.
Disney’s investment in broadcast rights to NFL, MLB, NBA and college sports is vital to current and potential distributors, Iger added.
“That was all designed for ESPN to continue to be—not just for this decade, but into the next decade—not only a leader in sports television, but a leader in media,” he said. “That’s one of the most valuable brands in media. IT is a must-have brand.”
Asked whether alternative distribution models will be more or less profitable than the traditional cable bundle, Iger said the bundle remains the dominant form of television in the home and ESPN is the one brand a media company would want to have in a time of change.
“We have invested over the years in the strength of its brand, and that gives ESPN the ability to essentially manage through whatever disruption is going on with the bundle or in television in general or in media,” he said.
Over the past five years, Disney has grown 15 percent, with 9 percent growth in its media business and 23 percent growth in its other units.
Earlier Wednesday, Ivan Feinseth, CIO of Tigress Financial Partners, said he’s not ready to sell Disney stock yet.
“I think it’s a huge buying opportunity,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”“I’m actually shocked it’s down, but I’ve often said you never buy a stock for what just happened, you buy a stock for what’s going to happen over the next few years.”
Feinseth said Disney will soon reap the benefits of billion-dollar franchises and its sweet spot in action and adventure films, which produce the most licensing revenue of all movie categories.
“You’re never going to have a ‘When Harry Met Sally’ action figure or lunch box, but the ability to license Marvel and ‘Star Wars’ content is unbelievable,” he said.
—CNBC’s Jacob Pramuk contributed to this story.
DISCLOSURE: Feinseth does not own shares of Disney. Tigress Financial Partners does not own greater than a 1 percent share of the stock and does not provide investment banking services to Disney.