Discovery Fourth-Quarter Earnings Rise

Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav

UPDATED: The cable networks company grew revenue 28 percent in the latest period, with CEO David Zaslav saying his team is "focused on maintaining the financial momentum."

Discovery Communications on Thursday reported improved fourth-quarter financials. 

The cable networks company, led by CEO David Zaslav, said its earnings rose to $289 million in the quarter from $224 million in the year-ago period.

Revenue jumped 28 percent, driven by gains at U.S. and international networks, to $1.54 billion. During its third-quarter earnings call, Discovery had said that fourth-quarter ratings and advertising trends were slightly weaker than expected.

The firm operates such brands as Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet and OWN, a joint venture with Oprah Winfrey.

PHOTOS: Leslie Moonves, David Zaslav, Robert Iger: 10 Highly Paid Entertainment CEOs

"Discovery's strong 2013 results reflect the additional market share we are capturing around the globe as we further invest in our diverse content portfolio and capitalize on the growth opportunities available across the unmatched worldwide distribution platform we have developed," said Zaslav. "At the same time, the strength of our balance sheet enabled us to make several strategic investments that complement our existing businesses and further bolster the long-term growth profile of the company, while also providing us with the ability to return significant capital to shareholders."

Added Zaslav: "We remain focused on maintaining the financial momentum we have generated consistently over the past several years while further investing in our brands and strategic growth initiatives so we can deliver additional shareholder value moving forward."

"Results in the U.S. were impacted by soft ratings for shows [that] are no longer on the air," Sterne Agee analyst Vasily Karasyov said in a recent report. "Ratings at Discovery and TLC are up year-over-year year-to-date, which should lead to reacceleration of U.S. ad revenue growth in the first quarter."

Discovery recently agreed with France's TF1 Group to raise its stake in pan-European sports network Eurosport International from 20 percent to 51 percent, further bolstering its European presence.

The deal for the controlling stake values international sports networks business Eurosport Group at about $1.2 billion (902 million euros) after deducting $115 million (85 million euros) for Eurosport France, slightly higher than the valuation used in the Dec. 2012 deal that gave Discovery its initial stake for $222 million.

Twitter: @georgszalai