Dow Jones Edges Lower as Apple Stock Sinks on China Gaming App Crackdown, Disney Stock Rises on Streaming Price Hike

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) was down about 0.1% at 11:45 a.m. EST Thursday, a small move to end what has been an eventful year for the stock market. The Dow crashed below 20,000 in March as the COVID-19 pandemic reached the U.S. and led to widespread stay-at-home orders. The pandemic was never brought under control, but that didn’t stop the Dow from eventually carving out new all-time highs later in the year. The Dow will end 2020 up more than 6% if nothing changes by the end of the day.

Turning to individual stocks, shares of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) were down a bit after the company removed thousands of paid game apps from its China App Store. Meanwhile, Disney (NYSE: DIS) stock rose after the company reportedly plans a price increase for its ESPN+ streaming service.

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Apple removes game apps in China

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that tech giant Apple planned to remove thousands of game apps from its App Store in China due to government pressure. Apple reportedly warned Chinese developers earlier this month that paid gaming apps were at risk of removal.

China requires paid video games to be licensed before being released, a policy that has been in effect for the past four years. However, app developers have been able to get around that rule on Apple’s platform. Apple began closing the loophole this year, the Journal reports.

On Thursday, Apple followed through by removing 39,000 game apps from its China App Store, according to Reuters. These include popular titles like Assassin’s Creed Identity and NBA 2K20. Just 74 of the top 1,500 paid game apps on the China App Store are still available, according to research firm Qimai.

The license requirement applies to paid games and games with in-app purchases, so the move by Apple could push more developers to opt for an ad-supported model. Apple takes a cut from sales of apps and in-app content, so such a shift would hurt Apples sales in China.

Shares of Apple were down about 0.8% by late Thursday morning. If nothing dramatic happens to the stock price for the rest of the day, Apple stock will end the year up more than 81%.

Disney’s ESPN+ raises prices

Given the popularity of Disney’s streaming services, it’s safe to say that the entertainment juggernaut has some pricing power. The company plans to boost the monthly pricing for its flagship Disney+ service from $6.99 to $7.99 in March, a move that’s unlikely to cause much churn given the low price of the service relative to the competition.

Disney’s sports-focused ESPN+ streaming service is joining Disney+ in raising prices in 2021, according to Variety. The price of an annual ESPN+ subscription will jump from $49.99 to $59.99 on Jan. 8, with renewals set to remain at the old price until at least March 2. The price of UFC pay-per-view events on the service are also increasing. Viewers will now need to shell out $69.99 per event, up from a previous price of $64.99.

Disney expects ESPN+ to rack up between 20 million and 30 million subscribers by the end of fiscal 2024, up from a previous target of 8 million to 12 million subscribers. Disney also expects the service to turn a profit by fiscal 2023.

Streaming is a big part of Disney’s future, and the company has so far shown a knack for quickly winning subscribers to its various services. Shares of Disney were up about 0.65% by late Thursday morning; the stock has surged over 26% in 2020.

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Timothy Green has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple and Walt Disney and recommends the following options: short January 2021 $135 calls on Walt Disney and long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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