Disney plans UK exit of ESPN.

Walt Disney is planning an exit of sports network ESPN from the UK as it incurred losses and lost key sports rights contracts such as Premier League games to rival groups.

ESPN "had experienced losses due to the ramp-up and newness of that business to us," said Jay Rasulo, Disney Chief Financial Officer in a conference call with analysts.

ESPN was launched in the UK in 2009 with offerings such as Premier League matches but was outbid by BSkyB and BT in June 2012. However, this will not affect ESPN's coverage of current Premier League contract which will expire at the end of this football season, according to a Financial Times report.

Meanwhile, Disney reported a slight dip in its first- quarter profit due to higher programming and production costs at its ESPN networks and lower sales for DVDs.

Net income for the first fiscal quarter ended 29 December declined 6 percent to $1.38bn (£88m, €1bn) or 77 cents per share against $1.46 billion, or 80 cents per share recorded for the same period in 2011.

On an adjusted basis, the company posted earnings of 79 cents a share ahead of the Wall Street expectations of 76 cents a share. Revenue for the period climbed to $11.3bn recording 5 percent increase from the previous year.

Disney shares climbed nearly 3 percent to about $56 in the after-hours trading.

"After delivering another record year of growth in 2012, we're off to a solid start in Fiscal 2013," said Robert A. Iger, chairman and chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company.

"Our ongoing success is driven by our long-term strategy, the strength of our brands and businesses, and our high quality family entertainment."