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In Disney news: Higher profits, new Netflix deal and next 'Star Wars' movie release

The Walt Disney logo in Burbank, Calif. and Netflix's headquarters in Los Gatos.
The Walt Disney logo in Burbank, Calif. and Netflix's headquarters in Los Gatos.

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The Walt Disney Company made a series of announcements today - including an earnings report that beat analyst expectations, another deal with Netflix and a promise to bring the next "Star Wars" movie to theaters in December of 2015.

Disney and Netflix, Inc. announced a deal Thursday in which Disney's Marvel Television will develop four original live-action series  for distribution on Netflix. 

In a statement, the two companies described the four series as an epic that will unfold over multiple years and "take Netflix subscribers deep into the gritty world of heroes and villains of Hell's Kitchen, New York."  The series will focus on the Marvel characters "Daredevil," "Jessica Jones," "Iron Fist" and "Luke Cage." 

"This deal is unparalleled in its scope and size, and reinforces our commitment to deliver Marvel's brand, content and characters across all platforms of storytelling," said Alan Fine, President of Disney's Marvel Entertainment.  "Netflix offers an incredible platform for the kind of rich storytelling that is Marvel's specialty." 

In the same statement, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said "Marvel's movies, such as 'Iron Man' and 'The Avengers', are huge favorites on our service around the world. Like Disney, Marvel is a known and loved brand that travels."    

Disney and Netflix were already pretty cozy.  Last year, they announced a deal that will make Netflix the exclusive U.S. subscription television service for Disney's first-run, live-action and animated movies.   That deal is set to begin with new Disney films released in theaters in 2016. 

The Marvel Television deal with Netflix was announced on the same day Disney released its fourth quarter and full year earnings report for fiscal year 2013. In the quarter ending September 28, Disney's net income rose 12 percent to $1.39 billion, or 77 cents per share . That's a penny per share higher than analyst expectations and  up from $1.24 billion, or 68 cents per share, in the same months a year ago.    Revenue grew 7 percent to $11.57 billion. 

Disney used the earnings occasion to announce an important future date for fans of "Star Wars." Episode 7 of the series from LucasFilm will be released in theaters on December 18, 2015. 

"Both of today's announcements underscore the value of two of our major acquisitions: Marvel and LucasFilm," Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger said on a conference call with analysts.  Disney bought Marvel Entertainment in 2009, looking to sell its vast library of characters across multiple platforms.  Netflix will now become one of those platforms.

Iger said Marvel has so many characters, it's impossible to put them all into movies. 

"While these characters are attractive characters, they're not among the MOST popular, and they're characters we were probably never going to make feature films about," Iger said, "Although, if they're popular on Netflix, it's quite possible they could become feature films."