UPDATE: The Walt Disney Co was the last major studio and network to report quarterly earnings, and its fiscal 3rd quarter profit rose 40% on the strong box office grosses from Pixar’s Toy Story 3, Marvel’s Iron Man 2, and Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland 3D. As promised, here is an earnings roundup showing that Big Media is alive and well and even flourishing not just this quarter but in many cases for next quarter or even the entire year. Yet the trickle down effect has been slow or nonexistent for Hollywood. After rounds of layoffs during the economic crisis, the moguls are still slow to put people back to work. And the movie and TV community still is underemployed. But what everyone can count on is that Big Media’s good news for the benefit of Wall Street will turn into bad news to the detriment of talent, behind-the-camera, post-production, and below-the-line unions when it’s time to negotiate:
August 5th: Viacom Inc Reports Sharply Higher Earnings For Q2
Credit the rebounding economy and recovering advertising market. Net earnings rose to $420 million, or 69 cents a share, up 52% from $277 million, or 46 cents a share, a year ago. Executive Chairman Sumner Redstone gushed, “With six months under our belt in this calendar year, day after day our confidence continues to grow as the emerging economy recovery builds. Now of course we’re not all the way back, but the light is brighter than it’s been for some time… Consumers are returning to the marketplace, marketers are beginning to spend again to grow revenues and capture share and Viacom is now and will continue to benefit.” Revenue at Viacom’s media networks group rose 6% to $2.1 billion.
Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said ad revenue growth has been improving quarter by quarter. “Once we get into October and into the December quarter, we will benefit from this upfront where we have greater volume than last year at higher pricing. Dauman singled out Jersey Shore as a show where “we have advertisers scrambling to get on it. We have advertisers who want to be wall to wall in particular episode. We’re turning them away.” Viacom’s movie business was down 10% to 41.25 billion, led by a 43% drop in home entertainment revenue. Also, Paramount Pictures has primarily been distributing others’ films like Iron Man 2 and Shrek Forever After in 2010 and self-financing its own pics. It is deliberately pursuing a strategy of a smaller slate of films in 2010-2011. Still, the film unit booked income of $69 million, reversing an $8 million loss in the same quarter a year ago. Viacom continued to post equity losses from its EPIX joint venture but said it should approach break-even by the end of the year.
August 4th: News Corp Posts Improved 4th Quarterly Results
News Corp posted a profit of $875 million, or 33 cents a share, for its fiscal 4Q ended June 30th easily beating analysts expectations. That compared with a loss of $203 million, or 8 cents a share, a year ago, when News Corp took an impairment charge. Revenue grew 6% to $8.11 billion, as companies spent more to advertise on the company’s television stations, TV channels and newspapers. That beat the average forecast of analysts of $8.05 billion. COO Chase Carey explained that brisk sales of advertising at Fox Broadcasting and the company’s cable television networks made the difference, while ad rates at the Fox network are up by a double-digit percentage from this spring. Ad rates are even better at the cable channels, which already represent more than 50% of the company’s profits. Local television station advertising revenues improved 29% in the quarter and 8% for the year compared to the same periods a year ago, reflecting strength in the automobile and telecom sectors.
Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said he was “very pleased” with the overall 30% increase “which is more than three times the growth we were projecting when we started the fiscal year. Despite the volatility of world economies, News Corporation continues to thrive on a truly global scale.” Of course he credited Avatar’s effects on Fiscal 2010 results. “But that was just a part of a much broader improvement at News Corporation. These results underscore just how well positioned we are fiscally, operationally, and strategically for further growth across all of our markets. So, as we turn to Fiscal 2011 and beyond, I am confident in our businesses and in our people to deliver superior results.”
Filmed entertainment reported a decline but only because the comparison period a year earlier had big releases that included sequels like Night at the Museum 2 and the X-Men spin-off Wolverine. The unit did see an increase in home entertainment revenue, thanks to record DVD sales of Avatar,. which is the best-selling Blu-ray title of all time And if future declines are reported, CFO David DeVoe warned that’s because the company is unlikely to repeat the blockbuster success of Avatar anytime soon. But the performance of filmed entertainment over the past year was staggering – a record year and a record number of $1.349 billion in operating income and up more than half a billion increase from the previous year. News Corp also reported full year results, and segment operating income increased to a record $1.3 billion, from $848 million reported in fiscal 2009. This growth was driven by the blockbuster worldwide theatrical and home entertainment performances of Avatar and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. The company expects its fiscal 2011 operating income to rise in the low double-digit percentage range from the $4.64 billion posted in fiscal 2010, as cable profits grow.
August 4th: Time Warner’s Profit 7% Higher In 2nd Quarter
Time Warner’s posted 7% higher profit, 8% higher revenue, and raised its full year 2010 adjusted earnings per share outlook. to a whopping 20% over 2009. The results topped Wall Street expectations, and Time Warner signaled growing confidence by boosting its full-year profit forecast to a whopping 20% over 2009. In May, the company had forecast only growth on a percentage basis in the mid-teens. CEO Jeff Bewkes told media that ad strength is continuing into the 3rd quarter with scatter market pricing and upfront pricing both up considerably. TW’s cable networks, Turner Broadcasting and HBO, led the company’s growth on 14% higher ad revenue and 9% higher subscriptions. At the company’s cable channels, which include CNN, TBS, the Cartoon Network and others, ad revenue was up by $126M, or 14%, over the same quarter a year ago. Across the entire company, ad revenue was up 11%, “its highest rate in almost 6 years,” Bewkes told analysts on a conference call. Overall, Time Warner reported net income of $562M, or 49 cents per share, for the three months ended June 30. That’s up from $524M, or 43 cents, a year ago. Despite all this good news, Bewkes was wary to commit to adding jobs, telling CNBC, “One of the ways I think you make more money is by creating more efficiency.”
The slate of Warner Bros films including Clash of the Titans ($492M) and Sex And The City 2 ($280M) offset box office disappointments Jonah Hex and The Losers. Film entertainment revenue climbed 8% to $2.5 billion, with a 21% jump in operating profit to $173M. But Warner Bros saw a slight drop in adjusted operating income, to $173 million from $176 million because of higher costs for production and advertising in the quarter ended June 30th. Home video revenue was down 8%, Martin said, but revenue from digital distribution grew by a sizable 50% and now represents nearly 20% of the studio’s total home video pie. Bewkes was already bragging about Conan O’Brien’s effect on Time Warner’s bottom line, saying he sees strong demand and an ad rate per 1,000 viewers similar to what the TV host previously attracted on NBC. In all, ad revenue was up 14% at the Turner networks, the biggest increase in 6 years. In response to an analyst’s question, Bewkes said Warner Bros has seen a positive effect on DVD sales and video-on-demand from the deals it struck with Redbox and Netflix.
August 3rd: CBS Q2 Beats Wall Street On 9% Rise in Advertising
CBS Corp’s 2nd quarter profit soared on revenue gains across its portfolio of media assets, crediting much improved advertising markets led by the automobile, telecommunications, retail, financial services and entertainment sectors, and the U.S. economic recovery. CBS’s net income was nearly 10 times the level a year ago as cost-cutting helped profit and revenue rose 11%. CEO Les Moonves told analysts during a conference call that the media giant’s revenue gains are poised to continue in the 3rd quarter, followed by a boost from heavy spending on political advertising in the 4th quarter. He does not expect any slowdown at O&Os, where local advertising spending is climbing back toward normal levels as the recession fades. Overall, Q2 revenue rose 11%, or $3.33 billion and EPS of 25 cents, beating the consensus $3.24 billion and 21 cents.
Among the good news were jumps of 9% rise in advertising, a 19% increase in licensing and distribution revenue of such shows as the CSI franchise and NCIS and The Good Wife, and a 17% rise in affiliate fees. Nearly 2/3s of the company’s revenue still comes from advertising, and local ad spending, which makes up about a 1/5 of CBS’s revenue, rose 17% from a year ago. The company was able to sell more ads in advance of its fall TV season this year than 2009, selling out 80% of its inventory versus 65% last year, and at higher prices. Net income in the three months to June 30th hit $150.1M, or 22 cents per share, up from $15.4M, or 2 cents per share, a year ago. Cable network revenue, including from pay TV channel Showtime, grew 12% $369M. Moonves told analysts he wants the company to become know for selling its content. CBS expects to record $250M in retransmission fees for the full year in 2012. As for CBS Films division, which so far has released two films and is about to release its third on Thanksgiving weekend, Moonves said, “We’re keeping our discipline and staying below the $40 million range in terms of our investment.”
July 27th: DreamWorks Animation’s 2010 Biggest Box Office Year
DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. announced financial results for its second quarter ended June 30th that shows profits declined 6.2%. But that was without a new home entertainment DVD in the marketplace, so costs outpaced box office gains since the theatrical release of films is the most expensive time of their sales cycle. Total revenue was $158.1 million and net income of $24.0 million, or $0.27 per share on a fully diluted basis. “Our strong second quarter was driven primarily by the blockbuster performances of Shrek Forever After and How to Train Your Dragon, two of the top 10 films of 2010 on both a domestic and a worldwide basis,” said CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. “We have once again surpassed $1 billion in worldwide box office and with Megamind still to be released on November 5th, we are on track to make 2010 not only DreamWorks Animation’s single biggest year at the box office, but also the biggest year ever for any CG animation studio.” That’s because both Shrek Forever After and How to Train Your Dragon will have big-selling DVDs in the marketplace before the holiday season. The Company also announced today that its Board of Directors has approved a new $150 million share repurchase program.
July 16th: Revenue & Profit Growth For GE’s NBCU Q2
Following quarter after quarter of awful performance, including a weak first quarter down 49% because of a too-costly Winter Olympics, NBC Universal turned in the best 2nd quarter revenue performance of all GE units — up 13%. This may be too late to matter much to GE but it’s good news for Comcast which could take possession of the TV/film company by the end of the year if it receives regulatory approval for the deal. (It recently won European Union approval but awaits the FCC’s.) NBCU’s profit hit $607 million, with revenue rising 5% to $3.75 billion. GE chairman/CEO Jeff Immelt singled out NBCU’s “good revenue and profit growth” — including the broadcast biz where revenue rose 1% and profit 6% helped by a better ad upfront market (+18% in dollars booked) and scatter ad market (+20%). Even NBCU’s O&O’s gained 25%. And once again cable was NBCU’s primary driver of growth, with revenue up 7% and profit up 10%. GE says Universal is improving with Get Him To The Greek at the box office, while the 3rd quarter is off to a good start with the release of Despicable Me. Meanwhile, the broadcast network is expecting better ratings for its strong new fall development compared to last year’s awful schedule.