Disney Sees Rough Road Ahead Despite Record Revenue

Disney reported record full-year revenue of $37.8 billion on Thursday but projected tough times ahead, noting a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse in TV advertising sales and theme-park bookings.

The company said net income fell 13 percent to $760 million in the fiscal fourth quarter compared with a year ago on revenue that climbed 6 percent to $9.45 billion.

The standout unit for Disney was consumer products, where revenue jumped 41 percent to $812 million and operating income was up 14 percent to $176 million.

The laggard was studio entertainment, where revenue slumped 5 percent to $1.45 billion and operating income was off 42 percent to $98 million.

Disney’s largest segment, media networks, saw revenue climb 4 percent to $4.21 billion, with operating income flat at $1.06 billion.

Revenue at the remaining segment, parks and resorts, was up 7 percent to $2.97 billion, though operating income there fell 4 percent to $412 million.

The results mostly fell short of Wall Street’s expectations, so Disney shares — down 29 percent already this year — fell another 4 percent after the closing bell Thursday, when the results were released.

During a conference call, CEO Bob Iger gave what he acknowledged was a “sobering outlook” and promised cost cutting. “Significant savings will be delivered,” he said.

“Consumer confidence is the lowest we’ve seen in over three decades,” Iger said, “and even the best product out there is feeling the effect.”

Not that it’s all dire. Iger said Disney will still invest in such strong entertainment content brands as Hannah Montana, High School Musical, Cars the Jonas Brothers, princesses and fairies.

As for the latter, he said the Tinker Bell DVD sold 2 million copies in seven days in the U.S., indicating another lucrative franchise has likely been launched.

The poor showing from the film studio can be traced to boxoffice underperformers Miracle at St. Anna and Swing Vote and to marketing expenses for Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

For the fiscal year, Disney’s overall revenue rose 7 percent to that record $37.8 billion. Media Networks was up 7 percent to $16.12 billion; parks and resorts climbed 8 percent to $11.5 billion; studio entertainment fell 2 percent to $7.35 billion; and consumer products was up 26 percent to $2.88 billion.

Also hurting the studio’s fiscal-year performance was the fact that DVD sales for Ratatouille and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End fell short of last year’s Cars and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.