Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch didn’t sugar coat this one. Well, at least not too much. Fox’s revenue miss in the September quarter was partly due to “challenging comparisons for our film studio due to the timing of key releases, as well as the poor performance of The Fantastic Four,” he says.
Of course it wasn’t just one film that led the company to generate net income of $675 million, down 34.9% vs the period last year, on revenues of $6.08 billion, down 23%. Analysts thought the revenue number would hit $6.42 billion. Factoring out adjustments tied to Sky and Endemol Shine Group, earnings came in at 38 cents a share, matching the Street’s expectation.
Fox shares are down about 1.7% in pre market trading.
Murdoch praised the performance of Fox’s cable networks and urged investors to look ahead to “an exciting film slate which includes this weekend’s The Peanuts Movie.” He also says that Fox broadcasting is making “good progress” with “the continued success of Empire, as well as some of our new series. We are focused on creating compelling storytelling and enhancing the customer experience of our digital video brands as we respond to changing consumer preferences. ”
At the main Cable Network Programming unit revenues improved 7.2% to $3.46 billion with cash flow up 25.8% to $1.31 billion. Fox says domestic affiliate revenues were up 11%, with help from “strong growth at FS1.” Domestic ad sales were up 4% with “solid growth at the sports channels and Fox News.” International results were down, though, accounting for the strong dollar.
In the Television operation, which includes Fox Broadcasting, revenues were flat at $1.05 billion with cash flow up 12.6% $196 million. The company says that increases in retransmission consent revenues were “counterbalanced” by a 5% drop in ad revenues. That, plus a drop in programming expenses, was attributable in part to having one less week of NFL. The unit also had fewer political ads, and — of course — “lower general entertainment ratings at the Fox Broadcast Network.”
And Filmed Entertainment weighed down Fox’s numbers. Revenues fell 27.9% to $1.79 billion with cash flow down 67.5% to $149 million. The results reflect “lower worldwide theatrical revenues, the absence of revenue contributions from Shine, lower syndication revenues reflecting the sale of How I Met Your Mother in the prior year and the adverse impact of the strengthened U.S. dollar, the company says. The film slate in the quarter could not compete with last year’s which had Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. The latest quarter also included costs for The Martian, but not the benefits from the box office sales for the film which opened in early October. On top of all that, Filmed Entertainment collected less from TV productions, and — like everyone — struggled with foreign currency adjustments.