Time Warner profit jumps 87% as TV shows pay off

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Investments in mythical kingdoms, alien invasions and a famously flamboyant musician are paying off for Time Warner.

The company, which owns HBO, CNN, TNT and Warner Bros., said on Wednesday that it posted an 87 percent jump in net income in the April-June quarter thanks to spending on quality original programming that helped to boost viewer interest, and revenue, at its television networks.

The results beat Wall Street’s predictions and the New York-based company raised its full-year guidance.

Time Warner Inc.'s stock rose $1.14, or 2 percent, to $65.22 in afternoon trading after earlier hitting $66, its highest price in more than a decade.

Chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes pointed to popular series such as TNT’s Falling Skies, which tells the story of humans fighting an alien invasion, Game of Thrones, HBO’s critically acclaimed fantasy drama series, along with HBO’s Emmy-nominated Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra. He said those and other original shows, coupled with another strong NBA season, helped draw viewers, advertisers and affiliates to Time Warner’s networks. As a result, revenue at the division increased 7 percent to $3.84 billion.

“We had about double the number of original hours in prime time this quarter compared to last year and it is paying off,” Bewkes said on a conference call with investors. Ratings on the company’s prime-time originals more than doubled from the same quarter a year ago, he added.

Bewkes also noted that Time Warner’s TNT and TBS networks ended the quarter as two of the top advertising-supported cable networks for viewers in the 18 to 49 age range. In addition, ratings at CNN jumped nearly 70 percent among its target audience and HBO viewership remained strong.

Wedbush analyst James Dix backed his ‘outperform’ rating for Time Warner’s stock, noting that the company’s increase in network revenue was better than he expected. He attributed the strong growth to a jump in advertising revenue that more than offset slightly lower-than-expected growth in subscription revenue.

Outside of the network division, revenue at the company’s Warner Bros. film and TV entertainment division increased 13 percent to $2.94 billion on strong ticket sales for Man of Steel, The Hangover Part III and The Great Gatsby.

Those gains more than offset lower revenue at the company’s publishing division. Time Warner had planned to spin off its ailing Time Inc. magazine unit by the end of this year, but said Wednesday that it needs more time and that the spin-off would instead be complete by early next year. Revenue at the publishing division fell 3 percent to $833 million on both lower subscription and advertising sales.

For the April-June period, Time Warner Inc. earned $771 million, or 81 cents per share. That's up from $413 million, or 42 cents per share, a year ago. Excluding items, the company earned an adjusted 83 cents per share for the recent quarter.

Analysts expected 76 cents per share.

Revenue rose 10 percent to $7.44 billion from $6.74 billion. Analysts expected $7.11 billion in revenue.

For the full year, the company says it now expects to post an earnings-per-share percentage increase in the “mid-teens”. When it announced its first-quarter results in May, the company said it expected a percentage increase in the “low double digits”.