Disney reports higher earnings

Results due to gains in sales for E!, Us

Studio coin and asset sales goosed the Walt Disney Co.’s profits, which more than doubled to $1.7 billion last quarter from $734 million a year earlier.

Revenue rose 10% to $9.7 billion.

Latest earnings include a hefty $1.1 billion gain from the Mouse sale of its chunk of E! Entertainment Television and Us Weekly. But even excluding such one-time items, profit rose 43%.

Disney’s earnings release kicked off an investor conference in Orlando, Fla., where execs from every division will be discussing their businesses throughout the day today.

Studio profits more than quadrupled to $604 million from $128 million, with homevideo the standout — including “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” “Cars” and “The Little Mermaid” in platinum release.

Studio revenue rose 29% to $2.6 billion.

Disney said boffo vid sales more than offset the perfs of tepid theatrical releases such as “Deja Vu” and “The Santa Clause 3.”

At media networks, including broadcasting and cable, profit rose 24% to $750 million; revenue nosed up 6% to $3.9 billion.

Broadcasting profit grew 27% to $297 million, driven by political spending at ABC’s TV stations and DVD sales of Touchstone Television series “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Lost.”

Broadcast revenue was about flat at $1.8 billion.

Cable profits rose 22% to $453 million on revenue, up 12% to about $2.1 billion.

Numbers were boosted by subscriber growth at the international Disney Channels. Mouse also cited DVD sales of “High School Musical” and higher affiliate and ad revenue at domestic Disney/ABC cable nets.

At ESPN, a squeeze from higher programming costs offset a boost in ad sales from “Monday Night Football.”

Profits at parks and resorts rose 8% to $405 million; revenue grew 4% to some $2.5 billion. Higher attendance and ticket prices buoyed Walt Disney World, but that was partly offset by disappointing results at Hong Kong Disneyland.

“The early going in Hong Kong has been more challenging than we had hoped,” said Disney chief financial officer Tom Staggs.

Consumer products delivered a downside surprise as net income fell 13% to $235 million and revenue dipped 6% to $692 million.

Disney reassured Wall Street that “Cars” and “Pirates” merchandise continues to sell like hotcakes. The problem was a decline in revenue from self-published titles at Buena Vista Games, which faced tough comparisons with year-earlier games that were based on “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “Chicken Little.”

Staggs emphasized that Disney’s strategy continues to be “leveraging our creative success across the scope of our businesses” — finding and nurturing products that can be pumped through TV, film, games, theme parks and consumer products.

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