Walt Disney Co posted a 26 percent plunge in quarterly earnings as sales fell sharply at its media networks and theme parks, sending its shares nearly 3 percent lower.

Third-quarter revenue fell 7 percent to $8.59 billion from a year ago and lagged the $8.84 billion expected on average by analysts, according to Reuters Estimates.

Park profits declined 19 percent because of discounting and lower per-person spending, and television networks got hit by lower ratings and sales at ABC, an accounting change at ESPN and weakness in the advertising market, executives said.

Chief Executive Bob Iger told analysts on a conference call that he saw signs of the economy stabilizing, though he warned that the pace and extent of any recovery remained uncertain.

Net income in the fiscal third quarter, ended June 27, was $954 million, or 51 cents per share, compared with $1.3 billion, or 66 cents a share, in the year-ago third quarter.

Excluding certain items, Disney had a profit of 52 cents a share versus analysts' average expectation of 51 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

Shares in the entertainment and media conglomerate dropped 2.7 percent to $25.50 in after-hours trading after closing at $26.22 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Gina Keating; Editing by Gary Hill)