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Disney earnings: $1.20 per share, vs expected EPS of $1.14

Walt Disney posted mixed quarterly results Thursday, and its chief executive touted the health of its television business after setting off concerns about the segment earlier this year.

The media giant reported adjusted earnings of $1.20 per share on $13.51 billion in sales for its fiscal fourth quarter, which marked increases of 35 and 9 percent, respectively, from the previous year.

Analysts expected Walt Disney to post earnings of $1.14 per share on revenue of $13.57 billion, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters. Disney shares were lower in extended trading.

Disney's largest segment — media networks — had operating income of $1.82 billion, a 27 percent increase from the year before. The company attributed the improvement to higher affiliate fees as well as stronger advertising revenue at the ESPN and ABC networks.

In an interview with CNBC, Disney CEO Bob Iger said he remains "really bullish" about cable television and ESPN in particular. He declined to give specific guidance about the coming quarters.

"The fact remains that the industry did lose some subs last year. Now is that a reason to panic? Absolutely not. People still love television, they still love ESPN and they love live sports," Iger said Thursday.

Cable network revenue climbed 12 percent from the previous year to $4.25 billion, slightly beating analysts' expectations, according to StreetAccount. Investors had worried about the segment's strength, especially after Iger hinted the cable business had lost traction and subscribers after Disney's third-quarter results.

"It's good that ESPN didn't go extinct. So that's the part of the business that people are worried about," Larry Haverty of Gabelli Multimedia Trust said on CNBC's "Closing Bell."

Disney is coming off a period of hot consumer-product success from the hit movie "Frozen," and looking toward the highly anticipated release of the next "Star Wars" film. The two movies, plus the "Avengers" franchise, helped drive an 11 percent increase in consumer products sales in the quarter.

"We've differentiated ourselves as a company in many ways because of the array of great brands that we have and great franchises and on the eve of what's our first "Star Wars" movie, we're feeling really good about the year ahead," Iger said Thursday.

Studio entertainment sales of $1.8 billion met analysts' expectations and were roughly flat from the previous year. Operating income for the segment more than doubled, due to theatrical distribution of titles like "Inside Out" and "Ant-Man."


Iger also responded to speculation that "Star Wars" hero Luke Skywalker was excluded from the new film after he was absent from some marketing materials, saying, "I can only tell you that Luke Skywalker is in the movie."

Parks and resorts revenue also rose 10 percent to $4.36 billion, slightly missing the Street's estimates. A new theme park expected to open in Shanghai next spring is "really exciting for us," Iger added.

Shares of Disney are up about 25 percent for the year.

— CNBC's Julia Boorstin contributed to this report.