Disney Posts 30% 4Q Profit Gain on Higher Cable, Parks Revenue (Updated)

Studio entertainment revenue declined during the three-month period ended Oct. 1

Last Updated: November 10, 2011 @ 4:35 PM

The Walt Disney Co. reported a 30 percent gain in fourth-quarter income on double-digit growth in cable, theme parks and interactive.   

These gains, which powered revenue to $10.4 billion for the three-month period ended Oct. 1, helped offset an 8 percent drop in studio entertainment revenue.

Disney reported a $1.1 billion profit for its fourth fiscal quarter on a 7 percent revenue gain. The company reported a 21 percent profit gain to a record $4.8 billion for its full fiscal year and a 7 percent revenue gain to $40.9 billion for the period.

President and CEO Robert Iger touted the company's results, calling fiscal 2011 "a great year financially and strategically."

He rhapsodized over ESPN's performance during the company's calls with analysts to discuss results, noting that the sports giant snared a record number of viewers for the fourth year in a row, and espn.com recently snagged a record number of unique visitors.

Also read: Earnings Scorecard: Who's Up, Who's Down This Season

Later in the call, he noted that the network's performance jumped double digits despite a very tough comparison with the same three months in the year ago period.

Jay Rasulo, exec VP and chief financial officer for the company, told analysts that Disney did not expect the NBA lockout to hit the network hard, because advertisers eager to reach young males would shift their buys to other ESPN programming.

In any case, the network has lined up alternate programming to fill slots that would have been devoted to NBA games. 

The Disney Channel worldwide also helped power the company's gain in its media networks division, its biggest revenue driver overall. It brought in $4.8 billion for the quarter, a 9 percent improvement over the year ago period, and $18.7 billion for the fiscal year.

Theme parks brought in $3.1 billion in revenue for the quarter, an 11 percent gain, and $11.8 billion for the year, a 10 percent improvement.

Studio executives said that global economic uncertainty had not had a great impact on theme park attendance or purchases to date. Rasulo said that merchandise sales were "a little bit slower, but overall we see our guests behaving pretty much as they have in the past." 

Decreased worldwide theatrical and home entertainment revenues took their toll on the studio entertainment division, however, with "Cars 2" failing to match the strong performance of "Toy Story 3" during the comparable period a year ago. 

Iger told analysts that the company had sold its interest in the upcoming "Spider-Man" movie to Sony in exchange for a purchase in "Spider-Man" merchandise rights. This, he said, will give it greater, streamlined control of merchandise and Sony greater control over the movie's release.

Sony disclosed its end of the "Spider-Man" transaction in its recent earnings report.

Also read: Spidey Boosts Sony's Q2 But Can't Prevent a Loss

Studio entertainment revenue dropped 8 percent to $1.46 billion for the quarter, and 5 percent for the full fiscal year to $6.35 billion.

Consumer products, meanwhile, generated $816 million for the quarter, a 12 percent gain, and $3.05 billion for the year. Iger told analysts that there had been "huge growth" in online sales of Disney merchandise and predicted more growth in that segment ahead.

Interactive media generated $223 million revenue in the quarter, a 19 percent gain, and a 29 percent rise for the year to $982 million. However, the division, like studio entertainment, reported a operating loss for the year. The studio said that it was cutting down on marketing costs in the interactive media.