Disney Reports Higher Fourth-Quarter Profits

Company provides scant information updating ESPN affiliate losses
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The Walt Disney Co. reported higher profits in its fourth quarter, driven by big increases at its media networks.

The company's earnings release shed little light on the key question of affiliate losses.

During Disney's previous earnings report, it said that a decline in subscribers at ESPN would mean slower than expected growth in distribution revenue. That revelation sent media stocks plummeting.

In its fourth quarter release, Disney said that affiliate revenue was up, but it that subscribers were down at certain networks.

More detail is expected during Disney's conference call with analysts and investors.

Disney said that fourth-quarter net income rose 7% to $1.6 billion, or 95 cents a share, from $1.5 billion, or 86 cents a share. Excluding a write off associated with Euro Disney, earning per share were up 35%.

Revenues rose 9% to $13.5 billion.

"We had a strong quarter, with adjusted EPS up 35%, completing our fifth consecutive year of record performance," said CEO Bob Iger. "In fiscal 2015 we delivered the highest revenue, net income and adjusted EPS in the company's history, reflecting the power of our great brands and franchises, the quality of our creative content, and our relentless innovation to maximize value from emerging technologies."

Operating income at Disney's Media Networks segment was up 27% to $1.8 billion. Revenues rose 12% to $5.8 billion.

The media networks had higher affiliate fees. Advertising revenue was up at ESPN and ABC.

Cable network operating income was up 30% to $1.7 billion. The company cited gains at ESPN, and to a lesser extent A+E Networks and the Disney channels.

Revenues rose 12% to $4.2 billion. Affiliate revenue was higher because of an increase at the SEC network, but that was partially offset by a decline at some other networks.

Programming costs were higher because of rate increases for Major League Baseball and the NFL, offset by the absence of NASCAR costs.

Broadcast operating income was up 1% to $164 million. Revenues were up 10% to $1.6 billion. Increase in both advertising and affiliate revenue was offset by higher programming costs.

The company had an equity loss from Hulu and had higher marketing costs for the fall season launch.

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