Because of the timing of some ESPN revenues and a fiscal calendar with one fewer week than a year ago, The Walt Disney Co. posted a decline in fourth-quarter earnings.
Net income was $835 million, or 43 cents a share in the quarter, down 7% from $895 million, 47 cents per share a year ago. For the full year, net income rose 20% to $4 billion, or $2.03 a share, from $3.3 billion in 2009.
Revenues were down 1% in the quarter and up 5% for the year.
Disney's Media Networks group, which includes ABC and ESPN, showed an 18% decline in operating income to $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter as revenue slipped 7% to $4.4 billion.
For the quarter, operating income at Disney's cable networks fell 28% to $1.1 billion as revenues dropped 6% to $3.1 billion. A year ago, ESPN recognized $525 million in deferred revenue in the fourth quarter. This year, it recognized only $170 million. Operating income was also affected by programming writeoffs at A&E Television Networks, which absorbed Lifetime. During the quarter, affiliate fees were higher and there were increased ad revenues.
Operating income for Disney's broadcasting assets increased to $145 million from just $2 million a year ago. Revenues were down 7% to $1.3 billion. There were decreased programming and production costs at ABC, higher advertising revenues and net affiliate fees.