MGM execs say that they are enthusiastic about their recent $343.8 million investment in the United Artists Media Group joint venture with Mark Burnett, Roma Downey and Hearst Productions – but declined in a conference call to offer investors many other financial details about it. “We are currently evaluating what disclosures we’re going to make,” CFO Dene Stratton said. CEO Gary Barber called it “a home run for MGM.” It will collect a share of the cash flow proportionate to its 55% stake. UAMG already has series including The Voice, Survivor, Apprentice and Shark Tank, plus a 10-episode scripted show The Bible and a theatrical feature film: Son of God. In addition, the venture is preparing a 12-episode scripted series, A.D., for NBC and additional unscripted shows. Dene also pointed to streaming initiatives, including a planned faith-based service that he says “has a potential to contribute significant value.”
Generally speaking, Barber says that 2015 will be “the best year in MGM’s modern history,” following the December release with Warner Bros. of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
He’s counting on a pickup in digital home entertainment sales to make up for DVDs which, he says, “will be a diminishing part of our business.” The good news is that electronic sales have “really risen dramatically, and the margins there are strong.” For example, the recent home-video release of Hercules performed better than the company expected based on its box office performance.
But Q3 largely benefited from cost-cutting: MGM generated net income of $28.6 million, +72.3% vs. the quarter last year, on revenues of $233.5 million, – 3.9%. Three-month period included $4.7 million in earnings earnings from MGM’s 19.1% stake in its EPIX joint venture with Viacom and Lionsgate.
Barber steered clear of a question about consolidation moves in entertainment. He did say, though, that “we have regular dialogue with key players around the industry and around the globe and will continue to do so.”