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Friday January 18th, 2019 3:06PM

Disney results jump on strong movie slate

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — Walt Disney Co.'s earnings for the latest quarter sailed passed expectations, boosted by a strong slate of movies such as "Incredibles 2" as the company moves toward closing its $71.3 billion deal to buy 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets.

Disney and other media companies are facing a shifting landscape as more TV watchers switch to streaming rather than traditional cable bundles.

But Disney's diversified entertainment portfolio, which runs from films and cable channels to theme parks, helped buoy its results. Studio entertainment revenue, which includes theater box office and streaming, jumped 50 percent to $2.15 billion on the strength of films such as "Avengers: Infinity War" and the latest "Ant-Man" movie.

Net income for the quarter ended Sept. 29 rose 33 percent to $2.32 billion, or $1.55 per share, from $1.75 billion, or $1.14 per share last year. Excluding one-time items, net income totaled $1.48 per share. The average estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.31 per share.

The Burbank, California-based company's revenue rose 12 percent to $14.31 billion from $12.78 billion last year. Four analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $13.81 billion.

A reduced tax rate also boosted results by $1.2 billion.

Disney is building its streaming service offerings. It launched $5-a-month ESPN Plus streaming service with sports in April. And a Disney-branded streaming service is expected to launch later next year.

In a call with analysts Thursday CEO Bob Iger gave a few new details about the new streaming service, which will be called Disney Plus. No pricing has been disclosed.

The company plans to keep investing in Hulu and use it as a home for more general programming. Family-friendly shows and movies will head to Disney Plus.

The streaming service will feature five categories of material: Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. Original programming will include "The Mandalorian," the first live action Star Wars series, created by Jon Favreau; a rebooted "High School Musical" series and a new documentary series focused on Disney.

Disney Plus will also produce original movies specifically for streaming. Initial titles will include a prequel to the "Star Wars" film "Rogue One" starring Diego Luna; "Noelle," starring Anna Kendrick as the daughter of Santa Claus; a live-action "Lady and the Tramp" and a movie about the Marvel character Loki starring Tom Hiddleston.

With the pending Fox deal, Disney now also takes a controlling stake in streaming service Hulu, which is jointly owned by Disney, Fox, Comcast and AT&T.

The Fox acquisition is expected to close at the beginning of next year. With it, Disney gets Fox TV and film studios, Marvel's X-Men and Deadpool, along with programs shown on such Fox channels as FX Networks and National Geographic. Fox's productions also include "The Americans," ''This Is Us" and "Modern Family."

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Elements of this story were generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on DIS at https://www.zacks.com/ap/DIS

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News
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