Disney sees worst day in more than a year as ESPN issues drag cable business

Key Points
  • Disney earnings beat, but revenue misses.
  • Starting in 2019, the company will no longer stream its new film releases on Netflix.
  • Troubles at ESPN contributed to a decline in operating income from Disney's cable business.
Disney misses on top line

Shares of the Walt Disney Company fell after the company said in its third-quarter report that issues at ESPN impacted operating income for its cable business.

The segment saw operating income decline 23 percent year over year amid trouble at ESPN, Disney said in a statement. The sports network was plagued by higher programming costs and lower advertising revenue, as well as severance and contract termination costs.

On Wednesday, the stock closed nearly 4 percent lower at $102.83. It was the stock's worst day since May 2016, when it fell 4.04 percent.

CEO Bob Iger has repeatedly defended the business, previously telling CNBC that the company is "confident in ESPN's future" and believes "live sports is still a huge driver of consumption."

The broader media and networks segment also reported operating income that missed Wall Street projections.

Here's what Disney reported as operating income for each segment, compared with analysts' expectations, according to StreetAccount consensus estimates:

  • Media and networks: $1.84 billion vs. $1.99 billion expected
  • Parks and resorts: $1.17 billion vs. $1.09 billion expected
  • Studio: $639 million vs. $636.6 million expected
  • Consumer and interactive: $362 million vs. $394.6 million expected

The company also announced that it will no longer stream its movies on Netflix starting in 2019. Disney instead plans to launch in 2019 a direct-to-consumer streaming service, which will host its films exclusively.

In a Tuesday interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin on "Closing Bell," Iger said that Disney has "no plans" to pull Marvel shows from Netflix. The CEO added that the Disney and Netflix have a "good relationship." Iger also said that Disney may decide to license other content to the streaming giant in the future.

During the third quarter, the Disney also celebrated the first anniversary of Shanghai Disney Resort. The company said in June more than 11 million people visited the park in its first year of operation.

Disney said that Shanghai Disney Resort and Disneyland Paris contributed to the 18 percent year-over-year growth in its theme park business.

Here's how the company's broader results compare to what Wall Street expected:

  • Adjusted EPS: $1.58 vs. $1.55 expected, according to Thomson Reuters
  • Revenue: $14.24 billion vs. $14.42 billion expected, according to Thomson Reuters

In the year-ago period, Disney reported adjusted earnings of $1.62 per share on $14.28 billion in revenue.

In March, Disney's board announced it was extending Iger's contract to July 2, 2019. The company has not yet named a successor for him.

When CNBC asked the Disney CEO if he'd run for office, Iger said he hasn't thought much about what he will do when he leaves the company.

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