The popularity of “March Madness” basketball and the box office success of “American Sniper” helped Time Warner easily beat quarterly earnings expectations during the first three months of the year.
Time Warner chairman Jeff Bewkes labeled the financial results a “strong start” to 2015, and investors will likely be pleased by the balance sheet.
The media giant posted earnings per share of $1.19 compared with 97 cents in the year-ago period. Revenues at the company behind HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner climbed 5% to $7.1 billion, up from $6.8 billion in the prior-year quarter. Wall Street had estimated that Time Warner would report earnings per share of $1.09 and revenue of $7 billion.
Revenues improved across each of Time Warner’s segments, increasing from $2.6 billion to $2.7 billion at Turner, jumping from $1.3 billion to $1.4 billion at HBO, and moving from $3 billion to $3.2 billion at Warner Bros. However, operating income fell 1% to $458 million at HBO, which it attributed to higher programming, distribution and marketing costs. It also fell 13% to $330 million at Warner Bros. due to higher advertising costs. The studio is riding high after fielding “American Sniper,” the Iraq War drama that shattered box office records and earned $541.7 million globally.
Turner saw its operating income climb 6% to $1.1 billion on the strength of higher advertising rates and strong ratings for its broadcast of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship tournament.
Operating income across the company fell 13% to $1.8 billion, down from $2 billion, which the company said was largely due to $441 million it received during the prior year quarter in connection with the sale and leaseback of its space in the Time Warner Center. Net income also dropped 25% to $970 million, falling from $1.29 billion in the year-ago period.
Time Warner is hosting an earnings call with analysts on Wednesday during which it could reveal more details about the reception for HBO Now, the premium channel’s new standalone streaming service that launched in April.
Shares of Time Warner are up 1.79% at $86.50 in pre-market trading.