Walt Disney Co. (DIS - Get Report) posted stronger-than-expected fourth quarter earnings Thursday as studio revenues surged past estimates, thanks in part to Toy Story 4 and The Lion King, ahead of next week's Disney+ streaming entertainment service launch.
Disney said adjusted earnings for the three months ending in September, the company's fiscal fourth quarter, came in at $1.07 per share, down 27.7% from the same period last year but firmly ahead of the Street consensus forecast of 95 cents per share. Group revenues, Disney said, rose 34% to $19.01 billion, just shy of analysts' forecasts of $19.04 billion.
"Our solid results in the fourth quarter reflect the ongoing strength of our brands and businesses," said CEO Bob Iger. "We've spent the last few years completely transforming The Walt Disney Company to focus the resources and immense creativity across the entire company on delivering an extraordinary direct-to-consumer experience, and we're excited for the launch of Disney+ on November 12."
Disney shares were marked 5.9% higher in extended hours trading Thursday immediately following the earnings release at $140.76 each, a move that would extend the stock's year-to-date gain to around 28.4% if it holds into Friday's opening bell.
Theme Parks revenues, Disney said, rose 8% to $6.7 billion, topping the consensus estimate of $6.56 billion, while operating income rose 17% to $1.381 billion. Media networks revenues jumped 22% to $6.5 billion, again topping Street forecasts, but operating income fell 3% to $1.783 billion.
Cable networks revenue rose 20% to $4.2 billion, Disney said, while studio entertainment revenues soared 52% to $3.3 billion thanks in part to success for releases of The Lion King, Toy Story 4 and Aladdin, lifting operating income 79% to $1.08 billion.
Disney+, the group's much-hyped streaming entertainment service designed to take on Netflix (NFLX - Get Report) and Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) -- as well as offerings from AT&T (T - Get Report) and Comcast (CMCSA - Get Report) -- will launch on November 12. Users will be able to pay $6.99 per month for the entire Disney content library, or $12.99 for a bundle that includes ESPN and Hulu. The service will launch in western Europe, as well as the United Kingdom, on March 31, Disney said.
Iger told CNBC Thursday that the Disney+ offering was "ready to go", adding the company had signed a distribution deal with rival Amazon, adding it will be available on that company's FireTV. It will also be available on Apple (AAPL - Get Report) , Google (GOOGL - Get Report) , Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) and Roku (ROKU - Get Report) from the time it is launched next week.
"We tested it in The Netherlands and it was quite successful," Iger said. "The product didn't have original content but it was extremely well-received, not just in the number of subscribers but the user reaction to it."
ESPN+, Disney's online sports streaming offering, now has around 3.5 million subscribers, the company said in a conference call. It also added the Hulu, which is now under Disney's control, will be the official streaming home for FX Networks starting in March of next year.