Espn Team Disney's Biggest Star
It may be its least Disneyish business, but ESPN turned out to be the star of the Walt Disney Co.'s first-quarter earnings report, which saw a 54-percent leap in net income over the same period a year ago. Ad revenue at the cable sports network soared 27 percent, thanks in great measure to the ratings success of Monday Night Football. (If two additional college bowl games are included, ad sales were actually up 34 percent over last year.) Political ad spending also helped boost sales at ABC's owned-and-operated TV stations, which was up 20 percent. But the ABC television network was one of the company's few divisions to report lower revenue. In a conference call, Disney CFO insisted that the company wants "to have great creative product out there, and we're investing behind it." Disney chief Robert Iger, acknowledging that this fall's new ABC shows failed to attract viewers, indicated that he has asked the network's new president Paul Lee to focus on developing a handful of quality shows rather than a throw a large number of new ones out and see if something sticks. Disney's movie studio business was helped primarily by strong DVD sales for Toy Story 3 and the sale of its Miramax specialty division. Iger attributed the company's strong earnings -- which came in ahead of analysts' predictions -- on a combination of increased sales and decreased costs. While net income was put at $1.3 billion, up 54 percent from $844 million during the same quarter a year ago, overall revenue was up only 10 percent to $10.7 billion.