Walt Disney Co on Thursday reported earnings that missed Wall Street targets as profit fell at its media networks unit, the movie studio and its consumer products division, sending shares down three per cent.

Revenue from Disney's cable business, the largest unit which includes ESPN and Disney Channel, fell marginally to US$3.95 billion in the fourth quarter, missing the US$4.06 billion consensus of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Results at sports channel ESPN were comparable to the prior year, Disney said, but subscribers and advertising revenue declined even as affiliate revenue rose.

Chief Executive Robert Iger focused on the power of Disney brands, rather than the quarterly results, in a statement in the press release.

"No other entertainment company is better equipped to navigate the ever-evolving media landscape," he said.

Disney's television networks have been under pressure as audiences rapidly embrace online streaming services and ditch traditional pay TV packages. Sports channel ESPN, Disney's biggest network, has lost subscribers at the same time its programming costs are rising.

To navigate the changes, Disney plans to launch its own online offerings. The company said in August it was pulling its new movie releases from Netflix Inc starting in 2019 to create its own streaming service centered around family entertainment. A sports-related service is planned for 2018.

Disney also held talks in recent weeks about buying some of Twenty-First Century Fox's film and TV businesses, according to media reports, which could bring Disney more content to compete with Netflix and others.

In addition, Disney's board is searching for a chief executive to succeed Bob Iger, who has said he plans to retire from the company in July 2019.

Disney shares have fallen roughly one per cent this year, while the S&P 500 has risen 15 per cent.

Disney recently traded at 16 times expected earnings, compared with 14 times earnings for Time Warner and 13 times earnings for Fox, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Disney's movie business generated revenue of US$1.4 billion in the quarter, down about 21 per cent and missing analysts' average estimate of US$1.61 billion. Broadcast revenue of US$1.51 billion missed Wall Street's target of US$1.69 million, and Disney's theme parks posted revenue of US$4.67 billion, just missing expectations of US$4.70 billion.

Disney's total revenue fell to US$12.78 billion in the quarter ended Sept. 30 from US$13.14 billion a year earlier.

Net income attributable to the company declined to US$1.75 billion from US$1.77 billion.

Excluding items, it earned US$1.07 per share.

Analysts on average had expected an adjusted profit of US$1.13 per share and revenue to rise to US$13.23 billion.

Disney shares fell to US$99.59 in trading after the bell.