Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS) didn't wait until the market close to make waves on Thursday. It revealed the name of the next Star Wars movie -- Star Wars: The Force Awakens -- just hours before unleashing its fiscal fourth-quarter results.
Given the strong growth across most of the family entertainment giant's subsidiaries, one can also say that the title announcement was also a good case of theatrical foreshadowing. The force did awaken.
Revenue climbed 7%, to $12.4 billion, in Disney's fiscal fourth quarter, posting modest growth in four of its five operating segments.
Media networks -- accounting for 42% of Disney's overall revenue and more than half of its total segment operating profit -- saw its revenue climb 5%, to $5.2 billion. The only troubling nugget in that segment is that operating income inched lower as EPSN and Disney's international channels took a step back. Yes, ESPN. Revenue is still moving higher at the undisputed champ of sports networks, but the higher costs of programming, given escalating contracts with different leagues, have been eating into the higher revenue that it's collecting from subscribers.
Increased turnstile clicks at its theme parks -- with guests spending more in admissions and on stuff once they're inside -- fueled a 7% spike in revenue, and a 20% rise in operating income at its parks and resorts division.
Disney's biggest step up on a percentage basis came from its studio entertainment arm. The summertime success of Guardians of the Galaxy and Maleficent resulted in revenue and operating income soaring 18% and 135%, respectively.
Frozen and Spider-Man merchandise helped Disney's consumer products segment post a gain of 7% in revenue and 9% in operating profit. Given the insane Frozen phenomenon, it would be a shock to see that the growth isn't stronger if one didn't realize that Disney is so big that it takes a lot to move the needle. The showing ends a streak of four consecutive quarters of double-digit growth in revenue and operating income for the segment.
Disney's interactive segment was the lone division to post a revenue decline, but that was expected given last summer's debut of the Disney Infinity line of Skylanders-like video game products. The important thing is that it stretches its streak of profitable quarters to five. This had been primarily a profitless center before that.
Add it all up and take the winding path down the income statement, and we find net income climbing 8%, to $1.5 billion, or up 12% on an earnings-per-share basis, to $0.86. This would seem to be short of the $0.88 a share that analysts were targeting -- making this the first quarter in more than a year that Disney failed to surpass Wall Street's profit projections -- but that figure also includes some one-time restructuring charges. Back those out, and Disney narrowly lapped the experts with its adjusted profit of $0.89 a share.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens? One can argue that Disney is a force that never sleeps.