Liberty Media reports improved Q3 results

Better results at Liberty Entertainment; Starz subs weak

NEW YORK -- Liberty Media on Monday reported improved third-quarter results across its holdings driven by better results at its Liberty Entertainment Group, which saw continued strength at Starz Entertainment.

However, its Starz and Encore premium channels continued to see subscriber declines.

"Building on momentum from the second quarter, QVC, Starz and Sirius XM posted strong operating results," Liberty president and CEO Greg Maffei lauded the latest quarterly trends.

For the third quarter, Liberty Entertainment reported a 16% gain in adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization to $86 million driven by growth at Starz Entertainment, partially offset by costs for a proposed split-off. Revenue rose 2% to $369 million.

Starz Entertainment boosted OIBDA 19% to $93 million on an 8% revenue gain to $301 million.

However, in the latest sign that the recession's fallout has hurt pay TV subscriber figures and led some consumers to discontinue premium channels, Starz subscription units fell from 17.5 million as of the end of the second quarter to 17.3 million. Encore moved from 31.5 million to 30.7 million.

Starz chairman and CEO Robert Clasen said some cable and satellite TV distributors' flat or declining subscriber numbers are a key concern. On a conference call, he said subscriber figures for his unit's channels are about flat at DirecTV, weaker at Dish, and cable operators have seen declines.

Starz Media, which is a separate unit and part of the Liberty Capital arm, dragged down revenue at Liberty Capital by 22% to $171 million in the third quarter, but the adjusted operating loss before depreciation amortization improved by $21 million.

Starz Media's theatrical revenue fell by $41 million and home video revenue by $9 million. The firm cited the "disappointing" performance of Overture releases "Pandorum" and "Capitalism: A Love Story."

"Starz Media faced challenges in the third quarter, including a difficult economic environment for DVD sales," added Clasen. "However, 'Law Abiding Citizen,' starring Jamie Foxx, which premiered in October, has already generated more than $60 million in domestic box office, well beyond projections, making it the best performing Overture Film release to date, and we had a good opening this past weekend for 'Men Who Stare at Goats.' "

Finally, Liberty Interactive, which houses home shopping channel QVC, brought in a 2% revenue increase and 11% jump in adjusted OIBDA.

QVC's third-quarter revenue and adjusted OIBDA climbed 2% and 10%, respectively, ending a recent slump.