It's been a rough summer for Rupert Murdoch's media behemoth Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA) - Get Report . The owner of the Fox studio and TV network became the subject of its own real life drama in July when long-time Fox News chairman Roger Ailes resigned after allegations of sexual harassment. Earlier Fox overhauled its studio, replacing its top executive amid a streak of underperforming films.
Wall Street analysts, eager for signs of new catalysts for growth to jumpstart Fox shares, which this year have lagged most of its larger media competitors, may have to wait a little longer as Fox reported a mixed quarter.
Dragged down by its still misfiring studio, the company reported fourth quarter revenue of $6.65 billion, just short of Wall Street consensus estimates of $6.68 billion that sent its shares down in after-hours trading.
Earnings for its fourth quarter were $0.45 a share. Analysts surveyed by ThomsonReuters estimated that the company would report earnings of $0.37 a share.
The company's stock fell by 4.2% in after-hours trading. On Wednesday it closed at $27.04, up by $0.34 or 1.27%
Fox's biggest unit, the cable channel operation that includes its Fox News, FX and regional sports channels, reported operating income of $1.21 billion, about the same as the prior year, as hefty sports rights increased for Major League Baseball and soccer, offsetting a hike in advertising and fees from cable and satellite distributors to carry the channels.
Operating earnings at its studio operation fell by 64% from a year earlier as its big budget summer releases Independence Day: Resurgence and X-Men: Apocalypse underperformed expectations.
Retransmission fees paid by cable and satellite operators helped boost Fox's broadcast unit's earnings by 4% from a year earlier, despite weaker ratings and higher sports programming costs.
The earnings followed a turbulent summer in which Murdoch's son James, the company's chief executive, and another son, executive chairman Lachlan, oversaw an overhaul of the management.
In June they replaced studio's top executive Jim Gianopulos with Stacey Snider, formerly the top executive at Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks studio.
On July 21 Fox News chairman Roger Ailes resigned after being accused of misconduct by Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News host who said in a lawsuit that he sexually harassed her. Ailes has denied Carlson's claims, and said it was in retaliation for the network's decision not to renew her contract
Fox News channel is generating record earnings and profits "but recent management turnover has increased investor concern over sustainability," Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne estimated in a July 26 report. He estimates the news channel contributes about 25% of the operating income to its cable unit.
Swinburne rates the company "overweight" on the basis of its beaten down price, which he says doesn't reflect the value of Fox's assets.
"As the U.S. bundle (of cable channels) frays and affiliate revenue growth slows, new growth drivers are needed to pick up the slack -- particularly Fox's studio and international assets," he wrote.
Fox said it was increasing its annual dividend by $0.06 to $36 a share and said it authorized a $3 billion program to buy back shares although it didn't specify a period by which it would complete the trades.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.