UPDATED: Revenues at Time Warner fell 5% during the media conglomerate’s second quarter, pushed down by a weaker film slate and lower television licensing revenues at Warner Bros.
There was good news, however. Profits at the media and entertainment company behind HBO and Turner climbed to $1.29 a share, up from $1.25 a share in the same quarter in 2015. That beat Wall Street projections. Revenues topped out at $6.95 billion, just missing expectations. Analysts had anticipated earnings of $1.16 a share on revenue of $7.05 billion. Net income for the quarter fell 1.9% to $952 million compared with $971 million in the year-ago period.
The company raised its full-year financial forecast, predicting earnings per share of between $5.35 and $5.45, a 5 cent increase from earlier guidance.
In addition, the company announced that it had acquired a 10% stake in Hulu, joining Disney, Comcast, and Fox in backing the streaming service. It also said that Turner’s full suite of networks would add their programming to Hulu’s platform beginning next year. The announcement appears to have lifted shares. Time Warner’s stock is up 1.74% to $77.10 per share in pre-market trading.
Referencing the Hulu investment, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said, “These are just the latest examples of our commitment to supporting innovative digital services that allow consumers to access high-quality content however they want it across a variety of platforms.”
On an earnings call with analysts, Bewkes argued that Hulu would complement other efforts by the company to reach customers directly, including HBO’s streaming service, HBO Now.
“We think our networks our brands and our shows…should be available in as many places as we can,” he said, adding that customers “want more choices of bundles and price points.”
Time Warner will not be involved in Hulu’s corporate governance and will not have a board seat, Bewkes said. The company paid $583 million for its stake.
Warner Bros. struggled to match the home entertainment and video game revenue windfall it enjoyed in the year-ago quarter, a period that saw the debut of “American Sniper” and the launch of games such as “Batman: Arkham Knight.” Warner Bros. has struggled in recent years as many of its top franchises, such as Harry Potter and the Dark Knight, have ended. It is trying to replenish the well with new DC Comics movies such as this weekend’s “Suicide Squad” and the Harry Potter spin-off “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”
“The big franchises mean more than ever… We thought the slate needed to be anchored by the big franchises,” Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara told analysts. He noted that there is a severe case of income inequality in the movie business, with the top six highest grossing films this year accounting for 35% of box office revenues. He seemed to dismiss suggestions that Warner Bros. would need to buy another studio to bolster its film offerings, stressing its control of DC Comics and other brands.
“We’re one of the couple of studios that have the big intellectual properties,” he said.
Turner and HBO helped bolster earnings. HBO’s revenues also climbed during the period, increasing 2% to $1.5 billion. The premium cable channel attributed the gains to a rise in subscribers, likely spurred by the return of hit shows such as “Game of Thrones.” Turner saw revenues increase 6% to $3 billion on stronger ad sales and increased subscriptions. The gains were related to the broadcast of the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship, as well as higher ratings at CNN due to interest in the U.S. presidential election.
Despite a long-standing relationship with “The Big Bang Theory” creator Chuck Lorre, Warner Bros. recently sold his most recent comedy, “Disjointed,” to Netflix instead of one of the Turner networks. Tsujihara said the shows setting in a marijuana dispensary didn’t lend itself to ad-supported television.