Strong ratings could boost Comcast earnings
Media earnings are heating up Wednesday with the nation's largest cable provider and the parent of the nation's highest-rated broadcaster reporting the last quarter's results.
Comcast (CNBC's parent company) will announce before the bell. The cable giant is on track to benefit from growth of its broadband business, improved ratings for NBC and box-office hits such as "Fast and Furious 6." The company's pay-TV subscribers are expected to decline; the question is just how sharp that decline is.
Wall Street analysts expect Comcast's revenue to be up 5 percent, to $16 billion, while earnings per share are projected to grow 27 percent, to 63 cents. But the subscriber numbers are just as important. Citi analyst Jason Bazinet projected the addition of 120,000 broadband and 100,000 voice subscribers, with basic-cable subscribers falling by 150,000.
Goldman Sachs analyst Jason Armstrong pointed to upside from NBCUniversal, writing that "strong ratings for 'The Voice' should help broadcast results in a seasonally strong quarter. In addition, Cable Nets face an easier margin comp given the condensed NBA schedule last year."
(Read more: Exclusive: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings talks strategy)
In the afternoon we'll hear from CBS, owned by Viacom, which is on track to grow its digital licensing revenue and retransmission fees. The big question is what kind of advertising growth the TV giant posted in the quarter. Retransmission fees will be very much in focus. In addition to being a key growth driver, CBS is in the midst of a contentious negotiation with Timer Warner Cable about its fees to the broadcaster.
CBS's revenue is projected to inch up 1 percent, to $3.5 billion, and its EPS is expected to jump 11 percent, to 72 cents. Sifel analyst Drew Crum has written that he'll be looking for the company's commentary on the ad environment, including the upfronts, and the divestiture of its outdoor business.
After the bell Wednesday DreamWorks Animation takes the stage. The big driver this quarter will be the "Croods" box-office performance as well as pay TV revenues from "Madagascar 3." The unknown here is what the digital animation studio says about the recent release "Turbo," which was weak domestically but has performed better overseas.
(Read more: Zynga folds on U.S. online gambling bet, shares fall)
B. Riley analyst David Miller wrote that DreamWork's increased investment in television is acting as a "buffer against blow-ups" such as Turbo. He reiterated a buy rating on the stock and a $29 price target, citing a positive outlook for the movie overseas, favorable economics from Netflix deals and healthy expectations for "How to Train your Dragon 2," due out next year.
The company's revenue is projected to grow 17 percent, to $190 million, and EPS to rise 32 percent, to 20 cents.
—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin. Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBC Universal and CNBC.com.