What Time Warner and News Corp Can Tell Us About Cable
Wednesday is a big day for media earnings, we'll hear from two giants: Time Warner before the bell and News Corp after the market's close. Both companies are expected to benefit from rising fees for their cable channels as well as growing advertising revenue thanks to political campaigns.
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Time Warner is expected to report 22 percent higher earnings per share of $1.45, on seven percent higher revenue of $5.493 billion dollars. Its cable channels, including HBO and Turner, are expected to continue to be its most profitable division by far. Those media networks will benefit from higher fees from satellite TV and cable operators, and will offset losses at its magazine division.
CEO Jeff Bewkes has made a number of major changes, including sweeping layoffs at its publishing division as the company pushes its magazines to focus more on digital content distribution. And earlier this month Bewkes surprised Hollywood by appointing a new studio chief, Kevin Tsujihara, to oversee Warner Brothers film and TV production. Tsujihara has run Time Warner's home entertainment business, and has been an industry leader in digital distribution—a sign that the company is increasingly focusing its energies on competing in the digital age.
Wall Street will be listening for more insight into Bewkes strategy behind these changes and for any guidance for the coming year. CNBC has a first on CNBC interview with Bewkes scheduled for immediately after the company's earnings call on Wednesday.
Ahead of earnings B. Riley Caris upped its price target for Time Warner shares to $48 from $43, praising its initiatives to return capital to shareholders and the ratings growth at TNT. Analyst David Miller warns though, that he's concerned abou to the company's ability to eke out double digit affiliate fee growth for Turner Networks from the cable and satellite TV operators. Wedbush Securities analyst James Dix projects the company will be cautious about its outlook, and will give 2013 guidance of the low-double digits to mid-teens earnings per share growth.
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News Corp is expected to report nine percent higher earnings per share of 42 cents on three percent higher revenue of $9.269 billion dollars. The media company's cable networks are expected to show ongoing growth, despite ratings declines at Fox News. The film studio should benefit from the success of "Lincoln;" it's expected to drive operating profit higher, though revenue is projected to drop slightly.
With the stock trading around fifty two week highs, Wall Street is looking for signs that it can continue its growth trajectory. On Monday News Corp sold its gaming website IGN to j2 mobile, and it's been reported that they sold it for far less than they paid for it back in 2005. We'll be looking for any commentary on this sale.
As the company moves forward with its plan to spin off its publishing and education assets into a separate publicly traded company this summer, Wall Street is hoping to see the non-publishing assets accelerate growth, without legacy newspapers slowing them down.
On Tuesday Evercore Partners raised its price target for News Corp to $30 from $27. Analyst Alan Gould projects a higher earnings-per-share growth after the spin-off, though he cites ongoing risks including the global economic environment, and disruptive new technologies.
(Read More: What to Watch for in Disney Earnings)
—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin; Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin