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ESPN Behind Disney’s Strong First Quarter Earnings
Published February 1, 2005
|Disney Exec Says Primary Interest
In NFL Is In Programming
Disney posted net income of $723M in Q1 ’05, which ended December 31, up 5% from $688M in the year ago period, “citing strength in its theme park business and booming sales at ESPN and ABC Family,” according to Paul Bond of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Disney’s per share earnings of $0.35 exceeded analysts’ expectations of $0.29. Operating income in the media networks segment rose 35% to $467M, “primarily due to higher affiliate revenue at ESPN and improved ratings at ABC Family.” ABC’s strong sales were “offset by the high programming costs associated with additional broadcasts” of NFL and NCAA football. Stations owned by Disney “benefited during the quarter from political advertising” (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 2/1). Operating income for Disney’s cable networks was up 67% (N.Y. TIMES, 2/1). The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Merissa Marr writes while ESPN was profitable, Disney’s broadcasting income “actually fell $8[M], largely because of a decline at the ABC network.” Disney did not “see a big benefit from” ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” because “it sold ad time for lower prices last year when the network’s ratings were weaker.” Ad revenue for those shows is expected to increase later in the year (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/1).
SPORTS GUYS: Disney President & COO Robert Iger: “ESPN is doing extremely well. They’re delivering great ratings so advertising is basically helping their bottom line. They’re managing their costs well. They’ve got a great distribution system. The deals in place with distributors drive a lot of revenue so ESPN is extremely healthy. The quarter was largely driven by the strength of our media networks, obviously led by ESPN” (Bloomberg News TV, 1/31). In L.A., Evan Pondel reports analysts questioned whether Disney would become involved in luring an NFL team to Anaheim. Disney CFO Thomas Stagg: “Our biggest interest in the NFL is in the [programming]” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/1).
MARKET RESPONSE: Shares of Disney closed yesterday up 1.42% to $28.63. At presstime, shares of Disney were trading at $28.73, up 0.35% from yesterday’s close.