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Disney shares fall as cable, broadcasting miss

Walt Disney delivered quarterly earnings and revenue on Thursday that were largely in line with Wall Street expectations, but revenue generated by the company's media networks segment trailed estimates.

The company, which operates the ESPN and ABC television networks, said revenue from its cable and broadcasting sectors rose to $5.22 billion. That figure, which represents the castle in Disney's holdings, was up 5 percent from a year ago but below the $5.25 billion StreetAccount analysts had expected.

The media conglomerate posted fiscal fourth-quarter earnings of 89 cents per share, up from 77 cents a share in the year-earlier period.

Revenue rose to $12.39 billion from $11.57 billion, driven by record park attendance and strong studio sales.

Analysts had expected the company to report earnings of 89 cents per share on $12.37 billion in revenue, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.

As rival media companies, including CBS, consider offering direct-to-consumer options to target cord cutters, Disney CEO Bob Iger told CNBC that cable or satellite packages still have value and he is in no rush to abandon bundles.

He said the company might experiment with direct-to-consumer services in the future but it is "taking a cautious approach."

Disney wants to "maintain what is obviously a value creator for this company and for a lot of other companies in the media industry," Iger said, referring to cable packages.

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The number of homes with multichannel bundles are "down ever so slightly from a year ago ... [but] it's still the dominate package that consumers are buying," Iger said.He attributed the decline to millennials who are "signing up for the bundles a little bit later than before."

If cord cutting continues to accelerate "We're probably better positioned than anyone, given the strength of our brands and the quality of our programming" to reach the consumer directly, Iger said.

The Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World Resort.
Getty Images
The Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World Resort.

The company's shares fell more than 1 percent after the earnings announcement.

Separately, Iger confirmed that John Lasseter will direct the upcoming "Toy Story 4" film which will hit theaters in June 2017.

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Disney revealed on Thursday, via Twitter, that principal photography was completed on its upcoming movie "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." It marks the seventh installment of the "Star Wars" series, which Disney inherited when it purchased filmmaker George Lucas' Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012.

Slated to hit theaters in December 2015, the franchise is the most important part of the Lucasfilm deal, according to Forbes. Several stars from the original trilogy will appear in the new flick, including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.

Earlier this week, the media firm widened the availability of Disney Movies Anywhere—a service that lets users purchase and store Disney, Pixar and Marvel content—in a deal that would make its content available on both Apple iOS and Google Android devices.

"The deal is important as it will now offer serious competition to Ultraviolet, an online movie service formed in 2011 by an alliance of several companies, including majority of Hollywood studios, with the exceptions of Disney, Apple and Google," Zacks Equity Research said in a recent note. It also upgraded the stock to "buy" after the announcement.

The service, which was previously only available to through Apple's iTunes and Disney's website, essentially gives users the ability to download content on an Apple device and access it later on an Android device.

Striking the pact marked the first time Google and Apple will share rights to the same digital content, Zacks said.

In early October, the company's board said it had extended Bob Iger's contract as chairman and CEO through June 2018.

"Bob Iger is the architect of Disney's current success," said Orin Smith, independent lead director of the Disney board, when announcing the contract extension. "Under his tenure, Disney has reached unprecedented creative and financial heights, driving the stock price to record levels and creating extraordinary value for shareholders."

Iger revitalized the Disney brand through a number of notable acquisitions—including Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. International expansion, technological innovation and an increased focus on Disney's parks and resorts are essential to Iger's long-term growth strategy, the board said.

Disney's total shareholder return has increased to 311 percent, compared with about 92 percent for the S&P 500, and the company's market cap has risen to nearly $158 billion from $48 billion before he took over in 2005, Smith noted.