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21st Century Fox (FOXA) - Get Fox Corporation Class A Report , the film and television company controlled by Rupert Murdoch, reported third-quarter revenue that blew past Wall Street estimates thanks to movie about a foul-mouthed superhero and a red-hot presidential race. Adjusted earnings also beat analyst forecasts. 

The company reported a 6% hike in fiscal third-quarter revenue, to $7.23 billion, and earnings from continuing operations of $844 million or 44 cents a share, a 17% decline from a year earlier. Excluding losses at its equity holdings, the company's adjusted earnings were 47 cents a share, compared with 42 cents a year ago, the company said. 

Wall Street analysts had expected earnings per share of 44 cents and revenue of $6.8 billion, according to a consensus compiled by Thomson Reuters (TRI) - Get Thomson Reuters Corporation Report  .

Fox's movie studio released the year's surprise hit, Deadpool, a Ryan Reynolds movie about a masked crime fighter with a penchant for four-letter words.

Made for a budget of $58 million, the film has sold more than $761 million of tickets worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo, and is the top U.S. film so far this year, with sales of $361.9 million in domestic theaters. The studio recorded a 23% hike in operating earnings in the quarter to $470 million.

The controversial U.S. presidential primary races also boosted Fox, igniting sharply higher ratings at its Fox News Channel, which helped the cable unit record a 12% hike in earnings to $1.38 billion. Domestic advertising sales increased by 17% in part due to higher ratings at Fox News.

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In after-market trading, Fox shares were down 43 cents, or 1.4%, to $29.37.

"The demonstrated value of our brands and our outstanding creative content will drive our businesses forward in both the existing and evolving media marketplace," executive chairmen Rupert Murdoch and his son, Lachlan, said in a joint statement. 

This year, overall ratings are up by 6.3% at Fox's brace of sports, entertainment and news channels, which account for more than two-thirds the company's earnings, according to research firm MoffettNathanson. Viewership increased by 25.5% for Fox News among viewers 25-54 years of age, the news demographic advertisers most want to reach.

It's a different story at Fox's television operation, where operating earnings declined by $16 million to $125 million because of higher sports programming costs at the Fox network.

That more than offset a 5% hike in TV revenue to $1.3 billion on the strength of political advertising at its local stations and higher "retransmission" fees paid by cable and satellite operators to carry its programming, the company said.

Fox's earnings also were affected by losses that included its holdings in the Hulu video streaming service and its 39% stake in European satellite company Sky, which a year earlier sold its Sky Betting & Gaming Service. Those losses reduced its earnings to 44 cents a share.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held a position in Thomson Reuters.