Updated from April 28

Paced by "spectacular quarters" from its film and television operations, Time Warner ( TWX) posted stronger-than-expected first-quarter numbers and boosted 2004 guidance.

Wednesday afternoon's solid report comes on the heels of positive comments from big media rivals such as Viacom ( VIAB) and Comcast ( CMCSA), both of which have impressed Wall Street over the last week with their improving financial outlooks. Time Warner shares rose 3% Thursday.

"These results demonstrate the individual and collective strength of our businesses and put us comfortably on track to meet all of our 2004 financial targets," Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons said.

Parsons also dismissed recent media reports about AOL's merger-and-acquisition plans as "rank speculation."

For the quarter ended March 31, Time Warner reported net income of $961 million, or 20 cents a diluted share. This compares with the year-ago profit of $396 million, or 9 cents a share. Excluding an accounting change, latest-quarter earnings were 15 cents a share, up from a dime a year earlier.

Revenue surged 9% from year-earlier levels to $10.1 billion. Wall Street analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had forecast a 9-cent profit on revenue of $9.51 billion.

The company raised its guidance for full-year operating income before depreciation and amortization, the cash-flow yardstick formerly known as EBITDA. OIBDA percentage growth, which the company had said previously would be in the range of high single digits to low double digits, will now be in the low double digits.

Off of $8.8 billion in 2003 OIBDA, low-double digit growth of, say, 12% would translate to 2004 OIBDA of $9.86 billion. The Thomson First Call consensus going into today's call was for $9.69 billion.

Time Warner's America Online service finished the first quarter with 24 million members in the U.S., losing 237,000 subscribers in the quarter. That is smaller than both the fourth-quarter 2003 loss of 399,000 subscribers and the year-ago loss of 289,000 subscribers.

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