Discovery Communications fell short of Wall Street’s expectations for Q4, but it offered an excuse that several media companies have raised lately: Its overseas earnings look unusually anemic as foreign currencies weaken against the dollar.
The cable programmer reported net earnings of $219 million, down 12.4% vs the year end period in 2014, on revenues of $1.65 billion. down 1.8%. Analysts thought the top line would be a bit higher, at $1.67 billion.
Earnings at 34 cents a share also missed expectations for 41 cents. Discovery says foreign currency exchange rates reduced its adjusted earnings number by 24%.
CEO David Zaslav says the company “continued to build momentum with our unmatched worldwide brands and leading multiplatform distribution network. We surpassed 3 billion cumulative viewers, launched more new networks and increased audience and market share, all of which helped to drive steady global growth and strong financial results.”
He adds that the company is “well positioned to thrive in the rapidly evolving media landscape and to drive continued shareholder value in the years ahead.”
There were no big surprises at the U.S. Networks. Adjusted cash flow (reported as operating income before depreciation and amortization) rose 1% to $410 million with revenues up 6% to $787 million. Ad sales were up 5% as higher prices outweighed the company’s lower ratings in the quarter. Fees from cable, satellite and other distributors were up 7%.
Operating expenses rose 11% in the quarter due to unspecified “higher content amortization and impairments and marketing costs.”
The International Networks were a different story. Adjusted cash flow declined 20% to $262 million with revenues down 8% to $816 million. Analysts were looking for the revenue number to be closer to $837 million.
Discovery says that changes in foreign currency exchange rates depressed the top line by 14% and the adjusted cash flow number by 16%.
If you take that out of the equation, as well as acquisitions of Eurosport and SBS Radio, then revenues would have risen 11%, with an 8% boost from distribution and 12% from ad sales.