Disney's Broadcast Division Drops Slightly, 'Frozen' Heats Up Entertainment Division

Walt Disney beat a lot of financial estimates for its fourth-quarter financial results -- but it couldn't beat CBS in getting the NFL’s highly sought-after Thursday night football package.

Walt Disney gained nearly 9% in revenues to $12.3 billion -- with net income 33% higher to $1.84 billion -- for the fourth quarter. A major gainer was Disney’s studio entertainment division -- 23% higher to $1.9 billion in revenue, mostly due to major theatrical movies' strong box office results from “Frozen” and “Thor: The Dark World.”

On the flip side, Disney’s broadcasting division had a difficult time, with a 2% drop in revenue to $1.53 billion and operating income in a steep fall down to $178 million.

Disney said that lower advertising revenue at the ABC-owned television stations was offset by an increase at the ABC Television Network. There were higher rates and more units sold -- but this was hurt by lower ratings. Higher programming costs were also a key factor, including production cost increases at “Modern Family.”

Disney's bigger cable networks group had a 6% hike in revenue to $3.76 billion, with operating income more than making up for the broadcasting declines -- up 34% to $1.28 billion. Higher operating income at ESPN was due to increased affiliate and advertising revenues, and some of this was offset by lower ratings.

Many analysts believe ABC -- more than most networks -- would have greatly benefited if it could retain some of the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” package of games. Eight games of that package went to CBS on Wednesday for what analysts say was a deal worth $250 million to $300 million for one season.

ABC is the only network of the big four that doesn’t have NFL games on its broadcast airwaves. Sister cable sports network ESPN airs the “Monday Night Football” package of games.

“We made a bid to the NFL that wasn’t accepted,” says Bob Iger, chairman/chief executive officer of Walt Disney Co., in an interview on CNBC. “[Still] as a company we are thoroughly invested in the NFL.”

Iger went on to say that ESPN has had a long relationship on Monday night with the NFL, delivering hundreds of hours of NFL-related programming to the cable network throughout the year.

Other Disney units showed steady gains for its fourth-quarter reporting period: Parks & Resorts up 6% in revenue to $3.6 billion; consumer products adding 11% rise to $1.13 billion.

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