This morning’s earnings report likely will add to Wall Street’s concerns about the state of the ad market, and ratings. Discovery reported Q3 net income of $280 million, +9.8% from the period last year, on revenues of $1.57 billion, +14%. Analysts expected revenues to come in a little higher, at $1.59 billion. Adjusted earnings at 41 cents a share also was light of predictions for 42 cents. Along with its soft results, Discovery lowered its full-year outlook: it now projects revenues of as much as $6.35 billion, down from the $6.53 billion it anticipated in August. The forecast for adjusted net income is now down to a high of $1.3 billion from $1.4 billion.
Despite the pullback, CEO David Zaslav says that the company’s “strong global organic growth and reach coupled with increasing contributions from our recent strategic acquisitions led to another quarter of solid results.” He adds that the company remains “committed to investing in world-class content, building the next generation of businesses and brands and leveraging our diversified and well positioned worldwide assets to deliver consistent operational and financial results and long-term shareholder value.”
The US Networks unit looked lackluster with revenues of $724 million, down 1.2%, with cash flow flat at $425 million. Advertising revenues were only up 1% while income from pay-TV operators and streaming services fell 3%. But if you factor out licensing agreements that boosted last year’s results, distribution revenues would have been up 6%, and total revenues up 3%.
Things looked better in the fast-growing International Networks operation. Revenues there increased 31.9% to $818 million with cash flow up 24.7% to $278 million. If you factor out the acquisition of Eurosport and foreign currency fluctuations, revenues would have been up 10%, Discovery says. Ad sales, not including Eurosport, rose 12% in local currency while distribution revenues were up 8%.
Discovery shares are down about 57% over the last three months as investors have grown concerned about ad sales, ratings, and potentially challenging price negotiations with Comcast if it acquires Time Warner Cable (a deal that Discovery execs have questioned). The company also likely will take a hit in Russia next year following President Vladimir Putin’s bill banning advertising on pay-TV.