The numbers look OK at first glance — especially since, unlike last year, it didn’t have the Super Bowl — although they’re probably not good enough to send traders rushing to the phones. For the first three months of this year, 21st Century Fox reported net income of $1.04 billion, down 2.9% from the period last year, on revenues of $6.84 billion, down 16.8%
Analysts expected revenues to be just a little higher, at $6.89 billion. But earnings at 46 cents a share were well ahead of forecasts for 39 cents.
“Our results reflect the underlying strength of our business even as it was impacted by an unfavorable comparison for our broadcast television businesses without the Super Bowl and ongoing currency headwinds,” CEO Rupert Murdoch says. “In addition, we’re seeing real momentum from our continued investments in our global channels business, most notably with the ICC Cricket World Cup broadcasts on STAR Sports in India which broke both linear and digital viewing records.”
Cable Networks, the biggest operation, saw a 13.9% increase in revenues to $3.59 billion — although investments in new channels including FXX and STAR Sports held cash flow to $1.23 billion, +4.9%. Domestic cable and satellite payments increased 20% with the addition of Fox Sports 1 and the consolidation of the New York Yankees’ YES Network. But domestic ad sales were flat due to ratings declines at FX Networks and National Geographic Channels. FX’s pick up of The Simpsons added to costs, but also enabled the unit to beat analyst expectations.
The Fox TV operation reported a 22.1% drop in revenues to $1.24 billion without the Super Bowl. The number would have been flat if you take that out of the equation. Retransmission consent revenues were up, but offset by a 7% drop in ad sales which the company attributes to the declining ratings at Fox. All told, cash flow fell 51% to $141 million. Here, too, the eat expectations with help from shows including Empire.
The Filmed Entertainment division held its own, especially with movies including Taken 3. But the TV side looked weaker compared to last year when Fox syndicated 24 and The Americans to Amazon. Revenues at $2.39 billion were up 4.8% with cash flow up 7.9% to $382 million.