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21st Century Fox earnings beat expectations, revenue narrowly misses

  • During the quarter, 21st Century Fox's cable news network, Fox News, dropped its biggest star, Bill O'Reilly, amid sexual harassment allegations.
  • The company's fourth-quarter revenue will include ticket sales from 20th Century Fox movies "The Boss Baby" and "Alien: Covenant."

21st Century Fox announced fourth-quarter earnings that beat expectations and revenue that narrowly missed.

Here's how the company did compared with what Wall Street expected:

  • EPS: 36 cents vs. 35 cents, according to Thomson Reuters
  • Revenue: $6.75 billion vs. $6.77 billion, according to Thomson Reuters

The company's earnings fell to 36 cents per share from 45 cents per share in the year-ago quarter. Revenue increased to $6.75 billion from $6.6 billion in the same period last year.

21st Century Fox attributed revenue growth to higher cable network programming affiliate and advertising revenue, which it said was partially offset by lower filmed entertainment content revenue and lower television ad revenue.

Cable network programming revenue increased to $4.33 billion from $3.92 billion from the year-ago quarter. Television revenue decreased to $1 billion from $1.04 billion in the same period last year, and filmed entertainment revenue decreased to $1.80 billion from $2.04 billion.

Domestic affiliate revenue increased 10 percent, which 21st Century Fox attributed to higher pricing across its cable brands. Domestic advertising revenue grew 6 percent from the same time last year.

"We believe that as time-shifted on-demand and ad-free viewing continue to grow in popularity our strength in live news and sports globally is a great advantage," co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch told investors on a call following the earnings release. "News and sports, the least likely programming to be watch-delayed, comprised more than half of our advertising revenues."

CEO James Murdoch said 21st Century Fox's acquisition of Sky, a European satellite company, is more likely to be approved in the first half of next year than before the end of this year.

21st Century Fox's quest was stalled yet again this week. The U.K.'s culture secretary, Karen Bradley, is seeking more advice from media regulator Ofcom, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

CFO John Nallen told investors he expects the company's cable networks to continue the momentum in the upcoming fiscal year. 21st Century Fox has entered into two new sports agreements, with college sports conference the Big Ten and the FIFA World Cup, he said.

In the upcoming year, the company will not broadcast the Super Bowl. It will show one less NFL division playoff game, and it will not likely see another "epic" 7-game World Series. It will also not be an election year.

Multiple companies yanked their ads from Fox News' prime-time slot in April amid sexual harassment allegations against the network's biggest star, Bill O'Reilly. Fox dropped O'Reilly later that month. Tucker Carlson took over O'Reilly's 8 p.m. Eastern time slot, replacing "The O'Reilly Factor" with "Tucker Carlson Tonight."

Last month, Fox News continued its streaks for most day viewers and prime-time viewers, TVNewser reported, citing Nielsen numbers. The network has been first in day viewers for 13 consecutive months and first in prime-time viewers for 187 straight months, TVNewser said.

The company's fourth-quarter revenue will include ticket sales from 20th Century Fox movies "The Boss Baby" and "Alien: Covenant."

21st Century Fox is exploring the option of operating local television stations through Ion Media Networks and ditching Sinclair Broadcast Group as an affiliate partner, Bloomberg reported last week. Sinclair is in the process of acquiring Tribune Media, which owns or operates 42 local television stations, according to the company's website.

James Murdoch declined to comment on 21st Century Fox's reportedly seeking a deal with Ion. However, he said the retransmission environment is "very attractive."

"I think fundamentally we think we have a lot of options and a number of affiliation agreements coming shortly and over the next couple of years," he said. "And we're very, very focused on the best way to really maximize any advantage that we can get for the business going forward."

Shares of 21st Century Fox are down slightly so far this year.