21st Century Fox Reports Dipping Revenue in Prior Financial Quarter

Rupert Murdoch - H 2015
AP Images/Invision

Rupert Murdoch - H 2015

"James (Murdoch) and I have been working together for many years. I think we know each other better than anybody else knows us," Lachlan Murdoch said during a conference call with analysts.

In its latest financial report, 21st Century Fox announced that revenue for the fourth quarter came in at $6.21 billion, a 26 percent decline from the prior year.

Analysts, though, were expecting the decline because the company sold its satellite businesses Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland and wouldn't have the success of 2014 releases X-Men: Days of Future Past and Rio 2, but the drop was still larger than predicted.

Saving Fox from a quarterly disaster was its cable news division, with revenue in that sector up to $3.57 billion from gains in affiliate fees.

Shares of the company were down slightly in after-hours trading on a day when most media stocks took a dip. In regular trading, the stock sunk 7 percent to $31.92.

Fox reported 39 cents in earnings per share, which was less than the 42 cents from the previous year, though it beat the consensus of analysts by a couple of cents.

Lachlan and James Murdoch hosted the earnings conference call for the first time since the former was made executive co-chariman and the latter was appointed CEO.

"It is a true 50/50 partnership," Lachlan told the Wall Street analysts Wednesday. "James and I have been working together for many years. I think we know each other better than anybody else knows us."

He added that he and his brother, along with his father, Rupert Murdoch, who was not on Wednesday's call, remain the "most committed " and "most long-term" shareholders in the company. He and his brother are "extraordinarily energized" when it comes to their management of Fox.

Lachlan also said that Chase Carey, who was COO until July 1 when he became executive vice chairman, would no longer participate in earnings conference calls.

"His ongoing counsel is a valuable asset to us," Lachlan said.

James Murdoch said the company is poised to achieve financial guidance.

While other conglomerates have warned of a challenging environment in cable networks, James said they'll experience an over-all increase in subscribers as growth in Fox Sports 1, National Geographic Channel and others make up for about a 1 percent annual decline in Fox News and FX.

Digital platforms might be problematic for traditional cable, but Fox is a bit insulated via sports, young and growing cable channels worldwide and its co-ownership of Hulu. Fox is also investing in various "non-linear" initiatives, said James.

"Hulu's going really well right now," James said. "We are very committed to growing this business."

James gave a shout-out to TV shows Empire, Gotham and The Last Man on Earth, and he said the goal is to create "adventurous" content.

In film, he's bullish on Fantastic 4, which opens Friday, as well as franchises like The Maze Runner, Alvin and the Chipmunks, X-Men and Independence Day. He also predicts big things for The Peanuts Movie, which opens Nov. 6.

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com