Parks, 'Black Panther' propel Disney earnings past TV decline

A person dressed as Walt Disney character Minnie Mouse crosses the street in Hollywood, California May 27, 2010. — Reuters pic
A person dressed as Walt Disney character Minnie Mouse crosses the street in Hollywood, California May 27, 2010. — Reuters pic

LOS ANGELES, May 9 — Walt Disney Co beat Wall Street forecasts for quarterly profit as strong performances from theme parks and the film studio offset pressure on the company's television business from audience shifts to digital viewing.

Shares of the media conglomerate, which is in the process of buying film and TV assets from Twenty-First Century Fox Inc, rose 1.3 per cent to US$103.08 (RM406.31) in after-hours trading on Tuesday.

The owner of ESPN, the Disney Channels and ABC is trying to transform itself into a leader in digital entertainment as younger viewers abandon traditional television packages.

Net income in the media networks unit, Disney's largest division, fell 6 per cent to US$2.1 billion as ESPN continued to lose subscribers. The results also were hurt by investments in streaming technology company BAMTech, which was moved into the cable unit after Disney acquired a controlling stake to help its digital push.

Disney reported adjusted earnings per share of US$1.84 from January through March, compared with the US$1.70 per share that analysts expected, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The theme park unit reported net income of US$954 million, up 27 per cent as attendance and guest spending rose. Disney raised some single-day admission prices in February.

At the movie studio, profit hit US$847 million thanks largely to the success of superhero movie Black Panther. The film from Disney's Marvel Studios has exceeded expectations with US$1.3 billion in global ticket sales, making it the ninth-highest grossing film in movie history.

Disney is attempting to close a US$52 billion bid for film, TV and international businesses from Fox. The deal is under regulatory review and has been complicated by US cable operator Comcast Corp's bigger offer for one of the businesses, Britain's Sky Plc.

Comcast also may make a play for all of the Fox assets that Disney wants, sources have told Reuters. The cable company has been speaking to investment banks about obtaining bridge financing for an all-cash bid of those businesses, three people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The Fox purchase is designed to bring in more programming to help attract streaming audiences.

In an interview on CNBC, Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said he remained confident the Fox deal would go through. — Reuters