ESPN+ Launch Fails to Lift Dormant Disney Stock

Short interest has more than doubled on DIS since July

Josh Selway
Apr 12, 2018 at 3:06 PM
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As part of its plan to keep up with streaming powerhouse Netflix (NFLX), Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS) today launched ESPN+. The digital streaming product costs $4.99 a month or $49.99 per year, and comes out more than a year before the company's Disney streaming service is set to hit. But while NFLX shares have soared in recent years, DIS stock has lagged. Most recently, it was stuck just below the $100 level, down 0.8% on the day.

Taking a broader view, Disney has struggled after a strong rally from late 2011 to mid-2015. In fact, the security's 48-month, or four-year, moving average has caught up with it. DIS is now on pace to close below this long-term trendline for the second straight month. Many on Wall Street believe this lackluster technical performance is going to continue.

Specifically, short interest has been soaring on Disney, with the number of shorted shares rising from 14.4 million back in mid-July, to 30.71 million today. While that's a dramatic jump, short interest still represents just 2.1% of DIS' total float. This suggests there's plenty of room for more short sellers to move in, which could add to the selling pressure.

The blue chip still has its backers, however. In fact, half the brokerage firms tracking the shares say they're a "buy" or "strong buy." And the average 12-month price target of $119.95 is a nearly 20% premium to current levels, and sits in territory not seen since 2015.

Of course, Walt Disney has done more than jump into digital streaming to grow its business. Back in December, it struck a $52.4 billion deal with Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA) to acquire its film and TV businesses. This blockbuster agreement is back in focus today, after British regulators ruled the company must make an offer to buy Sky, U.K.-based telecommunications company, if the latter company is not taken over by Fox.


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