Time Warner 3Q earnings up on cable TV strength

AP News
Posted: Nov 07, 2012 4:42 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Time Warner said Wednesday that its third-quarter earnings grew 2 percent, as a strong performance in its cable television channels offset declines in the Warner Bros. movie business following the final Harry Potter movie last summer.

Net income was $838 million, or 86 cents per share, higher than the 82 cents expected by analysts surveyed by FactSet. That compares with $822 million, or 78 cents a share, a year ago.

Revenue fell 3 percent to $6.84 billion, short of the $6.89 billion expected.

Television networks such as HBO and TBS saw 7 percent growth in the fees paid by cable and satellite distributors to carry the channels. The company said last month's extension of rights to carry Major League Baseball games will help it command higher fees as existing deals expire.

Time Warner said the success of "The Big Bang Theory" reruns on TBS is helping to lift the channel's entire schedule, as the network can promote new shows during commercial breaks. But the timing of certain sports events shown on Turner channels hurt advertising revenue, which fell 1 percent despite better rates in the U.S. It was also hurt by the shutdown of some channels overseas and by changes in currency-exchange rates, as ad sales made abroad converted into fewer dollars.

The Warner Bros. studio had a strong quarter with the release in theaters of the latest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." But that wasn't enough to match the comparison period in 2011, which benefited from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" and license fees for "The Big Bang Theory" and "Friends" in reruns. The recent quarter saw an increase in video-on-demand revenue, much of it in licensing fees from Netflix Inc.

At the Time Inc. publishing business, revenue fell 6 percent as the company made less money from newsstand sales and advertising.

Time Warner Inc. also kept its outlook for the year. It said adjusted per-share profit will grow by a low double-digit percentage from $2.89 last year. The company said "Argo" was doing well in theaters this quarter, and it should get a boost from the long-awaited launch of "The Hobbit" movies next month.

On a conference call with analysts, CEO Jeff Bewkes identified challenges. He said the CNN news business benefited from coverage of the elections and Superstorm Sandy, but it needed ways to do well when there isn't breaking news. The Time Inc. magazine properties also face challenges transitioning to a digital world. Bewkes said the company will continue to control costs while trying to tap the magazines' brand recognition and access to consumer data to develop new products and advertising opportunities.

After the release came out in the morning, Time Warner's stock increased $1.80, or 4.2 percent, to close Wednesday at $44.91. Its shares are near their 52-week high of $46.59 on Oct. 9. Its shares traded as low as $32.09 last November.