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Disney 4Q profit in line, revenue misses forecast

Associated Press Modified: November 8, 2012 at 6:45 pm •  Published: November 8, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Walt Disney Co. said Thursday that its net income in the latest quarter rose 14 percent thanks to an uptick in revenue driven by higher consumer spending at its theme parks and on its cruise ships.

The results for the quarter through September were in line with analyst expectations. But some concerns about the advertising environment emerged.

Ad sales at ESPN were flat compared to a year ago as viewers and advertisers turned their attention to NBC's Olympics coverage. For the current quarter, the close presidential election is expected to have cut into audiences for Disney's flagship sports network, and Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo said ad sales at ESPN are down so far compared to a year ago.

The weaker outlook for ESPN is an even bigger worry because last year the network's ad sales were hampered by an NBA contract dispute which pushed the start of the shortened season from Nov. 1 to Dec. 25. This year the network should benefit from an uninterrupted NBA season.

However, said Barclays analyst Anthony DiClemente, "there was a change in tone about ESPN (ad sales) as compared to the conference call last quarter where management expressed nothing but bullishness."

Investors reacted, sending shares down $1.29, or 2.6 percent, to $48.75 in after-hours trading after the results were announced. Before the announcement, Disney shares closed down 4 cents at $50.04.

The results for the quarter came a week after Disney said it would buy Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4.05 billion and revive the "Star Wars" franchise with a new trilogy starting in 2015.

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