Disney (NYSE:DIS) has perfected a way to steer around the economy's potholes. Even though all but one of its five business segments posted year-over-year revenue declines, the family media giant still managed to handily beat Wall Street expectations.

Earnings before one-time charges climbed 15% to $0.47 a share, while revenue managed to inch 1% higher to $9.74 billion. Analysts were braced for net income of $0.38 a share on $9.74 billion in revenue.

The only segment to gain ground on the top line was Disney's media-networks arm. This isn't really a surprise. Recessions are perfect for couch potatoes and escapism. Discretionary income may be scarce, but that didn't stop movie theaters from posting record box-office results last year. Just as Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) continues to tack on subscribers at a heady clip, Disney properties like ESPN and Disney Channel, which rely primarily on steady cable subscription revenue from folks starving for cheap in-home entertainment, are thriving.

The real surprises at Disney actually come from its other divisions. The four non-media-networks subsidiaries may have suffered revenue slips during the company's fiscal first quarter, but half of them managed to post double-digit percentage gains in operating profits. Predictably, the operating-margin laggards were Disney's theme-park and consumer-products divisions.

The future should be generally upbeat for Disney. Its Toy Story, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Cars franchises all have sequels hitting the local multiplex -- and in Toy Story 3's case, IMAX (NASDAQ:IMAX) theatres -- over the next two summers.

Disney World's Magic Kingdom and Disneyland's California Adventure are in the early stages of massive expansions. When complete, they should be major attendance draws.

Disney's strongest subsidiary now may actually be its biggest long-term question mark. Disney Channel appears vulnerable. It won't just be competing against Viacom's (NYSE:VIA) Nickelodeon later this year, now that Discovery Communications (NASDAQ:DISCA) and Hasbro (NYSE:HAS) will be launching their own kid-centric station, The Hub.

Programming costs continue to escalate at ESPN, but the real threat here is that consumers may shun pricey cable and satellite television plans altogether. Even market leader Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is shedding cable-television subscribers these days. Is that just a recessionary reaction, or are folks substituting Hulu, YouTube, and other free streaming sites for old-school content?

It's a trend worth watching -- and one that Disney surely will.

Will Disney be more or less relevant in 10 years? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.