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Disney Earnings Beat Estimates, but Fall Short on Revenue

The Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday reported fiscal first-quarter earnings of $1.89 per share, beating earnings estimates but falling short of expectations on revenue.

The better-than-expected earnings was in part due to the recently enacted federal tax changes, creating a one-time $1.6 billion boost to the company, Disney executives said during a call with analysts.

The Burbank-based media conglomerate reported revenues of $15.35 billion, up 4% from the same period last year, but short of the $15.5 billion analysts had been expecting. Net income was $4.4 billion, up 78% from the same quarter last year.

The earnings report comes amid a widespread market contraction that saw the Dow plunge more than 1,100 points on Monday, but by Tuesday, Wall Street had rebounded somewhat. It’s also the first report since Disney announced in mid-December that it would buy film and television assets from Fox, in a deal valued at $52.4 billion.

Iger did not divulge many details about the pending acquisition, starting out the call addressing the status of the deal.

“The regulatory process has begun,” Iger said, adding that in several weeks he has met with business leaders at Fox to gain insight into their operations. “I’m even more enthusiastic about the businesses we are acquiring and the management teams leading them.”

Iger said the acquisition of Fox’s film and TV assets will “deliver more content and production capabilities,” adding that it “will greatly diversify our businesses geographically.”

The deal is expected to beef up Disney’s library ahead of the launch of a Disney-branded streaming service launching in late 2019. Iger on Tuesday also revealed the monthly subscription cost of its forthcoming ESPN Plus streaming app, debuting this spring. The service will cost $4.99 a month. It will feature an array of sports in a new app that will feature personalized news and other content, Iger said.

Across its divisions, Disney reported that revenues for media networks, studio and consumer products were slightly down or flat. Parks and resorts reported a 13% rise in revenue from the same quarter last year.

The decline in revenues for media networks was largely due to lower advertising revenue, higher programming costs and lower operating income from program sales, said Disney chief financial officer, Christine McCarthy. ESPN, which has been suffering from a loss of cable subscribers, saw ad revenue decline 11% in the fiscal first-quarter, McCarthy said.

Meanwhile, the studio division saw relatively flat revenues of $2.5 billion. Among the releases in the current quarter were “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which has made a cumulative $1.3 billion globally at the box office. But compared with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “The Last Jedi” is trailing the domestic box office haul at the same juncture by nearly $300 million.

Revenue for consumer products were also down, declining 2% to $1.5 billion, the company said.

Shortly before the earnings report, Disney announced that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” will be writing and producing a new “Star Wars” film series.

Shares of Disney rose more than 2.6% Tuesday in after-hours trading to $109 a share. It closed Tuesday up 1.4% to $106.17.

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