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Disney Expected to Grow Studio, Theme Parks

Cinderella's Castle
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Cinderella's Castle

On the heels of 'The Avengers' massive performance and the successful launch of Cars Land at its California theme park, Disney is expected to report stronger results across its segments on Tuesday after the bell.

The largest media conglomerate's fiscal third quarter should include fairly broad-based improvement.

Though the company doesn't release guidance, analysts expect Disney to report 19 percent higher earnings per share of 93 cents on six percent higher revenue of $11.305 billion.

The studio is sure to be bolstered by 'The Avengers', which has grossed $1.46 billion at the worldwide box office, making it the third biggest movie of all time behind Titanic and Avatar. This blockbuster proves that Disney's once controversial acquisition of Marvel has more than paid off. After some pricey box office bombs - like John Carter of Mars - this hit, plus Pixar's 'Brave,' which has grossed $341 million worldwide, paint a picture of a studio that's back on track.

But Disney's most important division by far is its TV networks, led by ESPN, which is the most expensive cable network by far. (Cable distributors pay nearly $5 a month for the channel, more than ten times most channels). And this quarter ESPN’s ad revenue should benefit from NBA playoffs. The questions facing ESPN: how much more can it grow its subscription fees, and will it be hurt by competition from NBC's new sports network? We’ll also be listening for CEO Bob Iger’s take on the advertising markets—how well the Upfront ad sales period went and what his outlook is for the rest of the year.

Disney Channel's rival, Nickelodeon, owned by Viacom has seen its ratings suffer. (There's some question of what impact Netflix is having on kids TV programming). We'll see whether Disney can buck the trend and grow ratings - and ad revenue - at its kids networks, including not just Disney Channel, but also Disney XD and Disney Junior. The rising cost of content is one topic CEO Bob Iger will surely be asked about in the company's earnings call - his fellow media company CEOs were pressed on the issue last week.

Capital expenditures are sure to be another hot topic for the theme park division. Iger has overseen major investment in cruise ships, a Shanghai theme park in the works, and Cars Land, an addition to Anaheim's California Adventure, which opened in June. We could see the launch drive some positive impact on US attendance numbers. We'll see what Iger says about how consumer spending is holding up in the key summer travel months in light of the parks phasing out the deep discounts they relied on through the recession.

-By CNBC's Julia Boorstin

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.