Updated from 4:48 p.m. EDTWalt Disney ( DIS) reported a 27% jump in second-quarter profits, beating estimates on Wall Street, as the media giant saw double-digit growth in operating earnings across of all its business units. Still, the company's revenue fell slightly short of expectations, sending shares lower in after-hours trading. For the quarter ended March 31, Disney earned $931 million, or 44 cents a share, up from the $733 million, or 37 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts had an average estimate for expected earnings of 38 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial. On its top line, Disney reported a 1% uptick in revenue to $8.07 billion, compared with analysts' expectation of $8.12 billion. The company's biggest division by revenue, media networks, recorded a 21% jump in operating income to $1.18 billion, though revenue was virtually flat at $3.56 billion. The division includes the broadcast network ABC and the cable sports network ESPN. While ABC logged a 7% decline in revenue amid lower ratings, the broadcaster enjoyed a 33% increase in operating income due to syndication sales of hit shows like Desperate Housewives, Lost, and Grey's Anatomy and its new series Ugly Betty and Brothers and Sisters. The cable networks, led by ESPN, had a 19% gain in operating income on a 7% increase in revenue. Elsewhere, Disney's film business racked up a 60% surge in operating income to $235 million. The bottom line got a boost from improved domestic results from new film releases, like Wild Hogs and Bridge to Terabithia, coupled with lower distribution expenses due to timing of those releases.
The rise in film profits came even as revenue slid 13% to $1.55 billion due to difficult comparisons from a year ago and weakness overseas. Disney's biggest movies of the year are expected to be released in the current quarter. The third installment of its blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean franchise will come out this month, and Pixar Animation Studios' Ratatouille will be released in June. Iger declined to comment on his expectations for the financial performance of the films. "The early success of
Sony Pictures' ( SNE) "Spiderman III" bodes well for the movie industry this year," said CEO Bob Iger in a conference call with analysts after the earnings release. Elsewhere, Disney's parks and resorts business posted a 19% increase in operating income to $254 million and a 9% rise in revenue to $2.45 billion, reflecting increases at its Disneyland Resort Paris, Disneyland Resort, and Walt Disney World. The company's consumer products business reported a 20% jump in operating earnings on a 14% revenue increase. On the conference call, Iger declined to break out a measure of the company's digital revenue, garnered from its Web sites and its sales from movies downloaded from Apple's ( AAPL) iTunes. "Revenue we're seeing from advertising on Disney.com is up very substantially this year," Iger said. He also said the company's sites, such as Disney.com and ESPN.com, have "the ability to generate much larger revenue in the future than what we see today." Shares of Disney were down 69 cents, or 1.9%, to $35.86 in after-hours trading. The shares tacked on 1.4% during the regular session.