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Super Bowl and cable network programming lift Twenty-First Century Fox’s Q3 revenue

MUMBAI: Media conglomerate Twenty-First Century Fox has reported a 12 per cent jump in revenue for the three months ending 31 March 2014, led by the broadcast of Super Bowl XLVIII and increase at the cable network programming segment. Global affiliate revenue continued to grow.

Fox posted revenue of $8.22 billion for the quarter compared to $7.35 billion in the prior year quarter. The growth in revenue was driven by a $338 million increase at the television segment, led by the broadcast of Super Bowl XLVIII, and a 11 per cent increase at the cable network programming segment.

The company reported third quarter total segment operating income before depreciation and amortization (OIBDA) of $1.79 billion, as compared to $1.57 billion reported a year ago, representing a 14 per cent increase. The OIBDA growth was led by increased contributions from the cable network programming and television segments.

Twenty-First Century Fox chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said, “We delivered strong results in the fiscal third quarter with double-digit revenue and earnings growth led by sustained gains in affiliate fees at our cable networks. The sizeable audiences of our live television events, led by the most watched Super Bowl in history, underscore the value of our investments in live sports programming, both in the US and internationally. This quarter’s continued solid operational and financial performance demonstrates the global leadership of our businesses and the long-term value we are creating for our shareholders.”

Cable network programming

Cable network programming quarterly segment OIBDA increased 10 per cent to $1.18 billion, driven by an 11 per cent revenue increase led by affiliate revenue growth across its networks.

This revenue growth was partially offset by a 12 per cent increase in expenses, more than half of which reflects the planned investments related to the launches of new channels, including Fox Sports 1, Star Sports and FXX. Segment OIBDA growth was also adversely impacted by 4 per cent from foreign exchange rate fluctuations.

Domestic affiliate revenue grew 12 per cent reflecting the combination of sustained growth at the regional sports networks (RSNs), FX Network and Fox News Channel and the contributions from the launches of Fox Sports 1 and FXX. Reported international affiliate revenue also increased 12 per cent driven by strong local currency growth at the Fox International Channels (FIC), partially offset by a 9 per cent adverse impact from the strengthened U.S. dollar, primarily in Latin America.

Domestic advertising revenue grew 8 per cent in the quarter over the prior year period driven by solid growth at the FX Networks, Fox News Channel and RSNs. The growth at the FX Networks included increases related to the launch of FXX. Reported international advertising revenue increased 4 per cent due to strong local currency growth at Star and FIC, partially offset by a 10 per cent adverse impact from the strengthened U.S. dollar, primarily in India and Latin America.

OIBDA from the domestic channels increased 13 per cent from the corresponding period in the prior year, reflecting strong OIBDA growth at the FX Networks, RSNs and Fox News Channel. Reported quarterly OIBDA at the company’s international cable channels’ declined 1 per cent from the corresponding period of the prior year as strong local currency growth at FIC and the Star entertainment channels was more than offset by investments in the STAR Sports channels and a 17 per cent adverse impact from the strengthened U.S. dollar, primarily in Latin America and India.

Television

Television reported quarterly segment OIBDA of $288 million, an increase of 32 per cent as compared to the prior year quarter, driven by 27 per cent revenue growth reflecting increased advertising revenue and continued growth of retransmission consent revenues.

Quarterly advertising revenues grew 30 per cent from the corresponding period of the prior year driven by the broadcast of Super Bowl XLVIII and higher rates and ratings for the National Football League playoffs, partially offset by the impact from lower general entertainment ratings, led by declines at American Idol. The segment results also included higher costs associated with the broadcast of Super Bowl XLVIII and higher scripted programming and marketing costs.

Filmed entertainment

Filmed Entertainment reported quarterly segment OIBDA of $354 million, a 6 per cent increase over the $334 million reported in the same period a year ago. This result reflects higher contributions from the television production businesses, led by higher SVOD revenues driven by the sale of series to Amazon, which included ’24’ and ‘The Americans’, and the syndication of ‘Modern Family’. This growth was partially offset by the timing of theatrical launch costs incurred in the quarter in advance of the successful worldwide theatrical release of ‘Rio 2’ in April, which has grossed nearly $400 million in worldwide box office to date.

Direct broadcast satellite television

DBS generated quarterly segment OIBDA of $58 million, compared to $91 million reported in the same period a year ago. The decrease in OIBDA reflects higher programming costs related to SKY Italia’s broadcast of the Sochi Olympics and Sky Deutschland’s exclusive broadcast of Bundesliga soccer, which commenced in the current fiscal year.

The impact from the increased programming costs more than offset a $210 million or 16 per cent increase in segment revenues driven by continued subscriber growth at Sky Deutschland and a 4 per cent beneficial impact from the strengthened Euro. At SKY Italia, quarterly local currency revenue was consistent with the corresponding period of the prior year. Sky Deutschland grew net direct subscribers by approximately 64,000 during the quarter, bringing total direct subscribers to 3.73 million while SKY Italia’s subscriber base was essentially unchanged at 4.75 million.