Time Warner Quarterly Earnings Beat Estimates as 'Wonder Woman' Boosts Film Unit

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The entertainment conglomerate won't hold an earnings call this quarter due to its planned sale to telecom giant AT&T, which it says remains on track to close this year.

Time Warner, the entertainment conglomerate behind Warner Bros., HBO and the Turner TV networks, on Wednesday reported second-quarter earnings that exceeded Wall Street estimates as the success of Wonder Woman helped boost the financials of the company's film unit.

The company, led by CEO Jeffrey Bewkes, reported adjusted earnings from continuing operations of $1.33 per share, compared with $1.29 per share in the year-ago period and well ahead of the $1.19 per share Wall Street consensus estimate.

Quarterly earnings of $1.06 billion were up 11.6 percent from the year-ago period on a 5.4 percent revenue gain to $7.33 billion. 

Time Warner has agreed to be acquired by telecom giant AT&T for $85.4 billion and as a result won't hold an earnings conference call for the latest quarter. AT&T said last week that the deal was on track to close this year. Time Warner reiterated that on Wednesday.

At the film unit, the strong performance of Wonder Woman, which opened in the U.S. in early June, came in the same quarter as the weak box office for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and video game results also were strong again. Time Warner reported film unit adjusted operating profit, which takes out a one-time year-ago gain from the sale of Flixster, that rose to $261 million from $217 million in the year-ago period. 

Quarterly film unit revenue increased 12 percent to $3.0 billion due to higher theatrical and video games revenue, partially offset by lower television revenue. "The increase in theatrical revenues was mainly due to the box office release of Wonder Woman and higher home entertainment revenues primarily related to the release of The Lego Batman Movie and carryover from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," the company said. Video games revenue benefited from a higher number and favorable mix of releases in the current year period, including Injustice 2. Television revenue declined primarily due to lower initial telecast revenue.

HBO's second-quarter adjusted operating income rose 14 percent to $546 million amid higher revenue and lower expenses, including declines in restructuring and severance, programming and distribution costs. Programming costs dropped 3 percent "due to lower original programming expenses, including lower programming charges and the timing of original series," the company said.

HBO revenue rose 1 percent to $1.5 billion as an increase of 8 percent in subscription revenue was partially offset by a 44 percent decline in content and other revenue. "Subscription revenues increased due to higher domestic rates and subscribers and international growth," the company said. "Content and other revenues declined due to lower home entertainment and international licensing revenues."

Turner's second-quarter adjusted operating profit decreased 9 percent to $1.0 billion as higher programming costs more than offset increased revenue. 

Turner's quarterly revenue rose 3 percent to $3.1 billion as a 13 percent improvement in subscription revenue was partially offset by declines of 6 percent in advertising revenue and 8 percent in content and other revenue.

"Subscription revenues benefited from higher domestic rates and growth at Turner’s international networks, partially offset by lower domestic subscribers," the company said. "The decline in advertising revenues was due to the comparison to Turner’s networks airing the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship and Final Four games in the prior year quarter, the airing of two fewer NBA playoff games in this year’s quarter and lower delivery at Turner’s domestic entertainment networks, partially offset by increases at Turner’s news businesses and growth at Turner’s international networks."

The firm said that the negative impact on advertising revenue from not airing the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship and Final Four games and airing fewer NBA playoff games was approximately 8 percent.

“We’re very pleased with our first-half results, which keep us on track to achieve our objectives for the year," said Bewkes. "Our performance is a result of the continued successful execution of our strategic objectives — with the strong subscription revenue growth at Home Box Office and Turner a great example of this — along with the investments we’re making in our brands and high-quality video content."

He continued: "Warner Bros. is home to the biggest cinematic hit of the summer so far with Wonder Woman, which has grossed approximately $800 million at the global box office to date, and dazzled audiences again last month with the critically acclaimed Dunkirk. Heading into the 2017-2018 television season, Warner Bros. is the leading supplier of primetime series to the broadcast networks for the ninth straight season."

The exec also lauded the company's news network that has been in an ongoing feud with President Donald Trump. "CNN also continued to distinguish itself, posting its most-watched second quarter ever," Bewkes said. "And last month, Game of Thrones returned to HBO, with the most-watched season premiere episode ever on HBO.”

About the pending mega-deal, which regulators have been reviewing, Bewkes said: "Accelerating our pace of innovation and being able to connect more directly with consumers are among the exciting reasons for our proposed merger with AT&T, which remains on track to close before year end, pending regulatory review and consents."

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