Disney riding high on cable networks, online offerings

The Walt Disney Co., with a portfolio at least as diversified as Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), is riding high on its cable TV networks and the initial online offerings of ESPN as the company takes those networks in a new direction.

Disney's cable operations have been on a roll and are expected to continue to soar when the company announces its earnings May 6, CFO Jay Rasulo said at a meeting held for investors in Bristol, Conn., its ESPN headquarters, Reuters reports.

"We feel very good about the long-term growth of our cable business," he said, suggesting that Disney may create more deals like the one it signed with Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) that allow pay TV providers to deliver its channels over the Internet but outside a traditional TV subscription.

The Internet is a friendly environment for at least one Disney channel, ESPN, whose online viewers spend triple the amount of time there that they do watching the flagship network.

"It's exploded the misconception that digital media would cannibalize television," Arthur Bulgrin, ESPN's senior vice president of global research and analytics said in a Bloomberg story. "The overall time spent with ESPN media more than triples and at the same time TV viewing goes up. It's a rising tide that floats all boats."

And it's a necessary part of the business now that traditional TV networks are being increasingly challenged by over-the-top online competition.

"Pay television is going to remain a large business, though it will exist in a more complicated and dynamic atmosphere which will require some evolution of our current business model," John Skipper, president of ESPN said at the investor's meeting.

For more:
- Reuters has this story
- Bloomberg has this story

Related articles:
DirecTV in discussions with Disney for OTT deal
Dish Network scores rights to launch ESPN, Disney on OTT service
Study: Affiliates say ESPN is worth 77 cents per subscriber
Disney: VOD deals can open world without 'burden' of DVRs
ABC to block DirecTV, TWC, Dish subs from watching TV series online

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