21st Century Fox Beats Earnings Expectations as Film/TV Results Fall

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Rupert Murdoch

The company's stock was trading higher after the closing bell after falling during the regular session.

Cable television helped 21st Century Fox beat financial expectations when it disclosed quarterly results on Wednesday, although its broadcast TV and film segments each showed less revenue and operating income.

The company said it earned an adjusted 42 cents per share on $8 billion revenue. Shares of Fox fell 2 percent in regular trading and were up 2 percent after the closing bell when the conglomerate released its results.

Analysts were looking for about $7.94 billion in revenue and earnings of 38 cents per share. The company fell short of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization mostly due to tough TV comps, with the NFL ratings down, higher World Series ratings last year and political advertising off.

Film's contribution was also down this year compared to last due to several releases late in the quarter where costs were high but many of the benefits won't roll in until the current quarter. Examples include The Shape of Water, The Greatest Showman and The Post.

The Rupert Murdoch-controlled company is in the midst of selling many of its assets — including its film studio and some cable channels, though not Fox News or the Fox broadcast network — to the Walt Disney Co. Disney reported on Tuesday quarterly earnings that beat projections but on lighter-than-expected revenue.

"Looking ahead, we are focused on continuing to deliver value to our shareholders through achieving our near-term growth plans, completing our proposed acquisition of the balance of Sky, obtaining the required approvals for the successful completion of our transaction with Disney and planning for the exciting launch of the new ‘Fox,'” executive chairmen Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch said in a statement.

Lachlan Murdoch, during a conference call with analysts, said Fox Sports featured 34 percent more live sports coverage than the nearest competitor and boasted that Fox News and Fox Business Network had their best years ever.

Fox recently paid an estimated $660 million annually for five years of Thursday Night Football, and CEO James Murdoch justified the deal, in the midst of falling NFL ratings, as a way to "concentrate" the audience, as in the past CBS and NBC each had rights to some of those games.

By segment, cable network programming grew revenue to $4.4 billion from $4 billion in the year-ago quarter, while operating income grew slightly to $1.4 billion.

Television revenue shrunk to $1.8 billion from $1.9 billion, while operating income fell to just $56 million from $376 million previously.

Filmed entertainment revenue fell slightly to $2.2 billion, while operating income fell to $131 million from $389 million a year earlier.