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Disney shares rise in choppy trade after earnings and revenue fall short

Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company.
Katie Kramer | CNBC
Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company.

Walt Disney reported quarterly earnings that missed expectations Thursday, partly due to struggles in its media networks segment.

The media titan posted adjusted earnings of $1.10 per share on revenue of $13.14 billion for its fiscal fourth quarter. Revenue slid 3 percent from the prior year, which Disney said included an extra week of operations.

Analysts expected Disney to report earnings of about $1.16 a share on $13.52 billion in revenue, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.

"We're very pleased with our performance for the year, delivering the highest revenue, net income and earnings per share in Disney's history," the company's CEO, Bob Iger, said in a statement.

Disney shares fell nearly 3 percent in extended trading in immediate reaction to the news, but reversed and rose as executives tried to assuage fears on a conference call.

Disney's stock has been under pressure recently after Nielsen reaffirmed its industrywide data that said ESPN lost 621,000 subscribers in a month. Disney had disputed the data, calling them "a dramatic, unexplainable variation."

Media networks are Disney's biggest source of sales, followed by parks and resorts, studio entertainment and consumer products. Media networks revenue fell 3 percent from the prior year to $5.66 billion, while operating income dropped 8 percent to $1.7 billion. The segment's sales were in line with Wall Street expectations, according to StreetAccount consensus estimates.

The company said it saw operating income fall for its cable networks partly due to ESPN, which "reflected lower advertising and affiliate revenue and higher programming and production costs."

Revenue in the parks and resorts segment rose 1 percent to $4.39 billion, which fell short of analysts' estimates for $4.57 billion.

Studio entertainment sales rose 2 percent to $1.81 billion, largely in line with expectations. Disney cited the performance of films like "Finding Dory" and "Captain America: Civil War."

But Wall Street has kept its focus on Disney's television business. As more consumers look away from cable television and toward digital streaming, Iger has looked to digitize the distribution of the iconic brand.

"The sports that people watch today are not just watched on a fixed television set in the living room or den," Iger said at the Boston College Chief Executives Club in October. "They're watched in many different ways. And not only are they watched in their entirety, but they're watched in snackable form or short form ... the destination that was once 'SportsCenter,' while it was still strong, is not what it used to be, because it's been disaggregated by technology."

On the bright side, Disney has seen better-than-expected turnout so far for its new theme park in Shanghai, said Iger earlier this year, according to travel news site Skift.

— CNBC's Anita Balakrishnan contributed to this report.