Jefferson City, MO 65° View Live Radar Wed H 62° L 44° Thu H 68° L 46° Fri H 66° L 45° Weather Sponsored By:

Disney 3Q beats Street on ESPN, theme parks growth

Disney 3Q beats Street on ESPN, theme parks growth

August 10th, 2011 by RYAN NAKASHIMA, AP Business Writer in News

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Walt Disney Co. said Tuesday that its net income in the latest quarter rose 11 percent as growth at ESPN, its theme parks and consumer products businesses outweighed lackluster performance at its movie studio and interactive unit.

The results beat Wall Street expectations, but the surprise boost to Disney's fiscal third quarter came mostly because of the early booking of revenue at ESPN, which will result in an offsetting negative in its fiscal fourth quarter.

After gaining nearly 4 percent to $36.08 in extended trading, Disney shares reversed course, dropping 45 cents from the closing price, or 1.3 percent, to $34.25.

Disney said $228 million in fees from ESPN's distributors was booked in the third quarter, after the company said in May that the fees would likely be booked in the fourth quarter.

Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo said that resulted in a boost to earnings per share of 6 cents.

It pushed adjusted earnings to 78 cents per share, above the 73 cents expected by analysts polled by FactSet.

"The nickel beat came out of next quarter," said Barclays analyst Anthony DiClemente.

Without the early ESPN fee recognition, earnings would have fallen short of estimates by a penny.

Revenue grew 7 percent to $10.7 billion, also topping the $10.4 billion expected by analysts.

Net income in the three months through July 2 grew to $1.48 billion, or 77 cents per share, up from $1.33 billion, or 67 cents per share, a year ago.

Disney's earnings came after a wild ride on the stock market following Standard & Poor's first-ever downgrade of U.S. debt on Friday. Reacting to the bad news, the Dow Jones industrial average plunged 635 points on Monday, its worst point decline since 2008, only to rebound 429 points on Tuesday, the tenth-highest point gain in history.

Commenting on the turmoil and the possible damage it could have on the consumer psyche, CEO Bob Iger said visitors to its theme parks didn't appear to be changing their upbeat spending habits.

"During the past few days we have not seen any change in the pace of activity at our parks and resorts, advertising or consumer products businesses," Iger said to analysts on a conference call. "With Disney, ESPN, Pixar, Marvel and ABC, we remain well-positioned for whatever economic conditions we face in the future."

Advertising revenue was flat at ESPN as higher ad rates made up for the lack of the FIFA World Cup and Game 7 of the NBA finals this year. Excluding the marquee sporting events from a year ago, ad revenue at ESPN rose 9 percent. That was below the adjusted 23 percent gain in ad revenue at ESPN in the previous quarter, showing the ad market recovery that has boosted media companies was losing steam.

Revenue at cable TV channels including ESPN rose 7 percent to $3.52 billion.

Broadcasting revenue fell 1 percent to $1.43 billion as ad revenue on its ABC network grew, but local ad sales at TV stations fell because of lower political spending.

Combined, Disney's TV businesses saw operating profits grow 11 percent to $2.09 billion, again proving to be the biggest and most reliable source of earnings for the company.

Parks and resorts revenue rose 12 percent to $3.17 billion thanks to higher guest spending and attendance at its domestic parks and resorts and a full quarter of operations for its newest cruise ship, Disney Dream. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan hurt its Tokyo theme parks.

Studio revenue fell 1 percent to $1.62 billion as the combined blockbuster power of "Cars 2," "Thor," and "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" could not top last year's "Toy Story 3," "Iron Man 2," "Alice in Wonderland," and "Prince of Persia." Higher costs on "Pirates" cut into studio profits, which fell 60 percent to $49 million.

Consumer products revenue grew 13 percent to $685 million. Interactive media revenue grew 27 percent to $251 million but losses increased 32 percent to $86 million, even after its purchase of social game maker, Playdom, last year.