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Disney’s profit disappoints as TV unit struggles

ESPN again weighed down the earnings of parent company Walt Disney Co. as the sports juggernaut continued to grapple with sweeping changes in the media business.

Overall, it was a weak fiscal fourth quarter for Burbank-based Disney, which reported net income of $1.75 billion, down 1% from a year earlier. Revenue declined 3% and the company failed to meet analysts’ expectations.

The company’s media networks unit — whose crown jewel is ESPN — had a tough quarter, reporting segment operating income of $1.48 billion, a drop of 12% from a year earlier. Its operating income declined on a year-over-year basis for the sixth quarter in a row.

Within the unit’s cable networks group, which houses ESPN, segment operating income declined 1% to $1.24 billion. Disney attributed the drop, in part, to lower advertising revenue at ESPN and higher programming costs for the network, which pays a premium to carry National Football League and Major League Baseball games.