February 16, 2012 / 4:43 PM / 6 years ago

Discovery profit beats Street, outlook falls short

(Reuters) - Discovery Communications (DISCA.O) posted a higher-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on Thursday, helped by strong advertising and carriage fee growth at its domestic and international cable television networks.

But shares dipped 2 percent at slight disappointment with the cable network company’s full year profit outlook, which executives said would be hurt by higher interest expenses.

Discovery expects 2012 net income of $975 million to $1.08 billion on revenue of between $4.45 billion and $4.58 billion.

Analysts had forecast net income of $1.09 billion on revenue of $4.46 billion according to a poll by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“We’re a little concerned with the guidance,” said Standard & Poor’s equity analyst Tuna Amobi. “Their shares are reacting to what seems to be excessively cautious outlook.”

Net income rose to $336 million, or 86 cents a share, from $194 million, or 45 cents a share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average had forecast a profit of 69 cents a share, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total revenue rose 11 percent to $1.12 billion.

Discovery sits in the sweet spot of U.S. media investors’ current favored sectors: cable networks’ advertising revenue, international growth and fees paid by pay TV operators for the rights to carry Discovery’s networks.

The company, whose networks include Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet, reported a 11 percent rise in domestic networks revenue to $677 million.

    This included a 13 percent jump in advertising revenue due to higher pricing, while distribution revenue from fees paid by cable, phone and satellite carriers rose by 7 percent.

    International networks’ revenue rose 12 percent to $401 million. International advertising revenue rose 18 percent, and international distribution revenue increased 10 percent.

    One cloud that hangs over Discovery has been the struggles at its high-profile joint venture with TV mogul Oprah Winfrey’s on her OWN network.

    The network overhauled its management team twice since being set up last January with Winfrey finally taking the chief executive role last fall.

    “We’ve done deals with most of the distributors for meaningful subscriber fees, and on the advertiser side, we have good advertising support,” Chief Executive David Zaslav said, referring to OWN. “If we grow a meaningful audience that wants to spend time with OWN and we think that we will, this will be a very significant asset.”

    Discovery shares fell by 83 cents to $44.92 in mid-morning trade on the Nasdaq.

    Reporting By Yinka Adegoke; Editing by Derek Caney

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