Discovery Tops Street’s Q3 Profit Expectations And Raises Stock Buybacks

Those hoping that Discovery Communications’ Q3 earnings would tip them off to how media giants are doing generally might be frustrated by the cable network company’s report this morning. The Discovery-specific cross currents make it hard to discern broad trends.

But while the results were mixed, the company beat Wall Street’s profit forecasts — and disclosed a $2 billion increase in its stock repurchase authorization for the year ending October 2017.

Discovery reported net income of $279 million, virtually flat with the period last year, on revenues of $1.56 billion, down 0.7%. Analysts expected a slightly higher top line of $1.58 billion. But earnings at 43 cents a share were well ahead of the 38 cents the Street anticipated.

“Discovery’s unique portfolio of assets and global brands drove yet another quarter of strong worldwide viewership and financial results,” CEO David Zaslav says. “Discovery is like no other media company, propelled by our unmatched global infrastructure, local leadership, efficient global content model and sturdy position in the U.S., and we are confident in our ability to drive near and long-term growth and shareholder value.”

Discovery Family LogoAt the U.S. Networks revenues improved 8% to $781 million helped by a 12% increase in distribution fees — given a lift by the consolidation of Discovery Family (formerly The Hub, a JV with Hasbro) — and 6% increase in advertising. If you factor out the Discovery Family change, then distribution was up 7% and total revenues would have been up 4%.

Investors may be concerned by the 11% increase in operating expenses, largely for content amortization and marketing. That limited cash flow growth to 4%, and lowed the cash flow margin to 57% from 59%.

The International Networks were buffeted by the strong dollar and changes in currency exchange rates. Revenues fell 9% to $740 million with distribution fees off 3% and ad sales down 14%. Strip away the currency issues, and the acquisitions of Eurosport and SBS Radio, then revenues would have been up 9%, with advertising up 12% — with particular strength in Latin America.

Cash flow for international fell 21%, but would have been up 4% if you adjust for currency and the acquisitions. Here, too, content costs contributed to a 13% increase in operating expenses, dropping the cash flow margin to 29% from 34%.

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