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Disney earnings rise despite loss at movie studio, softer park spending

November 12, 2009 |  2:18 pm

The Walt Disney Co. reported an 18% bump in fourth-quarter earnings, propelled by gains in the television group that helped offset a loss at the film studio and a drop in operating income at the theme parks.

The company reported a net income of $895 million, or 47 cents a share, compared with $760 million, or 40 cents a share, a year ago. The results included a non-cash gain in connection with the merger of Lifetime Entertainment Services and A&E Television Networks. Revenues rose to nearly $9.9 billion, up 4% from $9.4 billion a year earlier.

The Media Networks Group, which includes Disney's broadcast and cable television networks, saw its operating income for the quarter rise 26% to nearly $1.5 billion, up from $1.2 billion a year earlier. Most of those gains came from ESPN and, to a lesser extent, the Disney Channel. The broadcasting group reported operating income of $2 million in the quarter, compared to a loss of $71 million a year earlier, fueled by increased domestic and international sales of such ABC Studios productions as "Grey's Anatomy" and "According to Jim."

At the theme parks, operating income for the quarter fell to $344 million, down 17% from $412 million a year earlier, because of lower guest spending at its domestic operations -- despite higher attendance. Revenue for the parks fell to $2.8 billion from nearly $3 billion in the year-ago quarter. Disney has been discounting tickets and hotel room rates to sustain traffic to Walt Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim. Disneyland Paris also showed lower operating income because of decreased spending.

The studio reported a $13 million operating loss for the quarter, down $111 million from a year earlier. Revenues increased 3% to $1.5 billion from $1.45 billion a year ago. The quarter's results reflected higher write-downs on newly released movies.

-- Dawn Chmielewski