21st Century Fox (FOXA) , whose Fox broadcast network hit a home run when the World Series between the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs went to a seventh and deciding game Wednesday night, saw its own winning streak continue earlier in the day when it reported adjusted first-quarter earnings of 51 cents a share, easily beating Wall Street expectations. That marks the third straight quarter it surpassed analyst expectations.
Boosted by strong showings by its studio and cable networks, the company headed by Rupert Murdoch reported quarterly revenue of $6.5 billion, a 7% increase that beat the consensus estimate of $6.47 billion. Fox's operating earnings of $1.79 billion were up 17% from a year earlier.
Shares in after-hours trading were up 42 cents to $26.25.
On Wednesday, Fox closed at $25.83, off 36 cents or 1.37%. The company's shares have fallen by 12.9% in the past year.
The company sees no need to seek acquisitions to grow the company faster, Fox CEO James Murdoch told analysts during a earnings conference call after making the announcement, in response to a question about increased interest in M&A within the media industry.
"This is a business that thrives on scale, but we like the mix we have, and we have invested in our scale brands," Murdoch said. "We have passed in the past at prices that we didn't think would deliver."
Fox's biggest unit, its brace of cable channels that includes Fox News, FX and its regional sports channels, reported operating income of $1.38 billion, up 6% compared with a year earlier, on the strength of a 10% boost in advertising sales and affiliate fees paid by cable and satellite operators to carry its programming. Fox News, which benefited from its coverage of the presidential races, were among the key drivers, the company said.
Michael Nathanson, a partner and analyst with MoffettNathanson, estimated that advertising at the company's cable channels increased by 7.9% in the quarter, second only among large cable groups to the 15.9% hike by Comcast's (CMCSA) NBCUniversal cable channels, which were boosted by strong Olympic game ratings.
Nathanson has a buy recommendation on Fox stock, with a $30 price target.
Fox's studio was a surprisingly strong spot for the company, despite performances from its two primary first-quarter releases Ice Age: Collision Course and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates that failed to catch fire with audiences. The studio reported operating income of $311 million, more than double the prior year, in some part thanks to sales of DVDs and other home entertainment outlets of its Ryan Reynolds blockbuster Deadpool and the licensing of reruns of TV show Homeland to streaming site Hulu.
Ice Age: Collision Course, the fifth installment in the Ice Age franchise, generated $406.8 million in worldwide ticket sales, well below the franchise average of $643 million, according to the Box Office Mojo website.
Overall, the studio generated $177 million in domestic ticket sales for its films in the quarter, a 10% drop from a year earlier, according to MoffettNathanson.
The Fox TV network suffered from a loss of advertising from brands that chose instead to sponsor Olympic game telecasts, the company said, and the loss of the Emmy Awards show, which this year rotated to Disney's (DIS) ABC network. The networks' operating income declined by 3% to $191 million, with revenue 1% higher.