The Walt Disney Company made it an even dozen quarters in a row that its quarterly earnings beat Wall Street estimates. CEO Bob Iger reported that second quarter profit rose $1.13 billion for 58 cents a share, or 22%, based on its better than expected National Treasure sequel and theme park performance which wasn’t hurt much by the recession. Also helping at the studio entertainment division were Enchanted DVD sales and the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds concert tour 3-D film that set a record for ticket sales per screen when it opened February 1st. Iger reported that, despite the writers strike, broadcast profit rose. Disney stock has been up 3+% this year
And analysts expect News Corp (Fox, FBN, 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight, etc) to report a higher fiscal third quarter profit tomorrow afternoon on improved revenues from the broadcast and cable television networks and a gain on the sale of DirecTV Group Inc to John Malone’s Liberty Media. In other words, the company will be barely affected by the writers strike. News Corp even raised its forecast for 2008 operating profit in February…
Given this, it’s awfully hard for these Big Media behemoths to continue to plead poverty during guild negotiations, like the ongoing talks with the big actors union SAG and the upcoming bargaining with the smaller actors union AFTRA. True, network TV viewership is down at the networks, and advertising was lost. But since these huge parent companies don’t break out their studios and networks in financial reporting, it’s hard to know exactly what’s being covered up.
Last Friday, Viacom Inc’s CEO Philippe Dauman said its first-quarter profit climbed 33% to $270 million, or 42 cents a share, on sales of the video game Rock Band and higher ratings at cable channels like MTV and Nickelodeon, while box office receipts for Cloverfield and The Spiderwick Chronicles helped narrow losses at the film unit. That company, too, weathered both the recession and the writers strike, the latter because most of its TV shows are unscripted reality programs and animation. Even so, the stock has dropped 13% this year.
Time Warner’s stock also has fallen this year and its CEO Jeff Bewkes acknowledged that, even though first quarter net income fell 36%, or 21 cents a share, its content business in film and television was alive and well. What isn’t is its cable systems unit which is why he wants to break up the world’s biggest media company by focusing on the company’s entertainment industries and shed its 84% stake in Time Warner Cable.
And despite bad news at General Electric, NBC Universal shined although not so brightly as it should have. Worse, the parent company didn’t warn investors in advance of reporting earnings in mid-April that profit overall dropped 12%, or 44 cents a share. Still, NBC Universal profit growth of 3% looked good by comparison.