Walt Disney Co. results lifted by 'Star Wars,' 'Frozen'

Disney CEO Robert Iger, pictured December 2019 at the European film premiere of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" in London, says the Disney+ streaming service has greatly exceeded expectations

Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday delivered better-than-expected results in the past quarter, fueled by box office hits from its latest "Star Wars" and "Frozen" films and a strong consumer response to its new Disney+ streaming service

Profits in the three months to December 28 dipped 24 percent from a year ago to $2.1 billion while revenues surged 36 percent to $21 billion.

"We had a strong first quarter, highlighted by the launch of Disney+, which has exceeded even our greatest expectations," said chairman and chief executive Robert Iger.

In an interview, he said it was too soon know the impact of the new coronavirus that originated in China and has spread around the world.

"The big issue on everybody's mind is what's going on with this virus and how far will it go in terms of its impact on people," he told CNBC television.

He said he has seen only a small impact in terms of bookings and travel to Disney resorts.

"It depends on how far this crisis goes and how long it lasts," he added.

The earnings report showed Disney+ was signed by 26.5 million subscribers since launching in several markets in November, and Iger told analysts that figure had now reached 28.6 million.

Disney, which is the leading force in Hollywood and operates major theme parks and television operations, has been betting heavily on its move to streaming as it takes on rivals such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

The company saw big gains in its studio entertainment segment, where revenues surged to $3.8 billion in the fiscal first quarter from $1.8 billion a year earlier.

Disney had some of the biggest cinema releases of the year and the past quarter's results were boosted by "Frozen II" and "Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker."

Its "direct to consumer" segment which includes Disney+ saw revenues jump to $4.0 billion from $900 million. That unit showed an increased operating loss of $693 million, in part due to the costs of launching the streaming service.

Shares in Disney traded in a narrow range after the results, alternating between modest gains and losses.