News Corp. Earnings Beat, Boosted by Cable Strength
News Corp. shares pushed higher after-hours following better-than expected fiscal third-quarter results. As with other media companies, cable networks are driving the media giant's growth—regional sports networks as well as the National Geographic Channels.
Cable strength offset declines in publishing and education. Ahead of the company's planned split of the media assets from the publishing and education assets this summer, this quarter's results highlights the potential for growth the former holds, and the risks inherent education and publishing.
The company the company expects total operating income for the fiscal year ended in July to grow in the mid to high single-digit percentage range.
For the fiscal third quarter, revenue rose 14 percent to $2.85 billion. Earnings per share came in at 36 cents, a penny lower than the year-ago quarter, but still better than expected.
Cable networks accounted for about 70 percent of operating income. This division grew operating income 16 percent, with an 11-percent increase in domestic affiliate revenue and a 42-percent gain in international cable channels' affiliate revenue
Advertising growth was far more modest—just 2 percent at the domestic networks.
Cable is clearly where the company sees growth, with its upcoming launches of Fox Sports 1 and its new FX channel targeting a younger demographic.
The company hasn't yet shaken off the effects of the News of the World scandal: The investigations resulted in $42 million in costs during the quarter. The proposed separation of the company was responsible for another $25 million in costs.
Investors will hear more about the new businesses at investor days: News Corp.'s is in New York on May 28th, and the new 21st Century Fox's will be in early August, following year-end earnings.
On the earnings call COO Chase Carey went into some detail about the planned separation of the media assets and the publishing and education business.
Now, Carey said, the company is focused on its weak spots—like improving next year's lineup of broadcast TV shows to boost ratings.
"There's no so sure things in the creative businesses but we feel great about the strength of these operations… We are looking forward pretty creative risks that offer audiences fresh and engaging entertainment and look forward to sharing our new lineup of shows next week with the Fox upfront."
Another focus is, no surprise, digital. Carey said the company is looking for new ways to generate revenue from digital distribution without eating into the traditional TV business model.
"We've seen stabilization of home-entertainment revenue with the emergence and acceptance in new digital format and these formats deployed the growth business over the next few years, Carey said. "We're also seeing progress in the buildout of authenticated TV everywhere services by the pay-TV operators."
When asked about the threat that Aereo poses, and whether News Corp. would indeed turn Fox into a cable channel as Carey has threatened in the past, he said "The broadcast business *has* to be a dual-revenue business to succeed."
When pressed on the increased losses at Amplify, News Corp.'s digital education business, Carey pointed to the massive potential in the space. "Education is one of the few businesses that's been left out of the digital revolution," Carey said. "It's ripe for disruption."
—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin. Follow her on Twitter @JBoorstin.