Toy Story 3

BURBANK, Calif. (


) --


(DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report

surpassed Wall Street targets with its fourth-quarter earnings, lifted by its television businesses.

The company, one of the purest gauges of discretionary spending among U.S. consumers, said its net income amounted to $844 million, or 44 cents a share, essentially flat with the year-ago quarter. Excluding items related to the sale of a stake in a European television service, Disney said it would have earned 47 cents a share in the quarter.

The Wall Street target, according to a Thomson Reuters poll of analysts, was 38 cents a share.

Overall revenue, Disney said, rose 1% to $9.74 billion, which barely edged out the consensus $9.66 billion forecast by Wall Street analysts.

The closest the company came to providing an outlook were the prepared remarks of CEO Robert Iger, who touted the slate of movies Disney has scheduled for release in the coming weeks and months.

Iger said he was "excited" about the company's "creative pipeline." He singled out the Tim Burton vehicle

Alice in Wonderland

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and the latest Pixar confection

Toy Story 3

. The company's 2010 box-office hopes have long rested on these two offerings.

Alice in Wonderland

In after-hours action Tuesday, Disney shares were trading at $30.26, up 51 cents, or 1.7% from the close in the regular session, when they advanced 1.2%.

Among the company's various segments, its cable and broadcast TV unit -- which it calls "Media Networks" -- performed the strongest during the fourth quarter, with revenue rising 7% and operating income 11% compared with the same period in 2008. Cable television, which includes the Disney Channel and a majority stake in ESPN, saw increases in subscribers and advertising spending, Disney said. ESPN's top line also benefited from the launch of a British version of the all-sports television channel.

Theme park revenue, meanwhile, was flat at $2.6 billion. All other segments -- movie studios, merchandising and online media -- saw revenue contract from a year ago.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

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Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.