Time Warner Profit Tops Estimates on TV Ads

Magazine Unit Slips on Newsstand Declines, Flat Advertising

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Danny McBride in HBO's 'Eastbound & Down'
Danny McBride in HBO's 'Eastbound & Down'
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Time Warner reported fourth-quarter profit that topped analysts' estimates as advertising improved.

The company -- whose portfolio includes Warner Bros., Time Inc. and cable networks including HBO -- said net income rose 0.5% to $773 million, or 76 cents a share, from $769 million, or 68 cents, a year earlier. Excluding some items, profit of 94 cents a share beat the 87-cent average of analysts' predictions compiled by Bloomberg.

Time Warner , which through its Warner Bros. unit produces "The Big Bang Theory" TV series, derives more than 70% of annual operating income from TV. Led by CEO Jeffrey Bewkes, the owner of CNN and TNT said last quarter's advertising sales rose 2% at the networks unit, driven by international growth.

The company's Time Inc. magazine unit saw revenue decline 1% in the fourth quarter as circulation revenue fell 2%, partly because of the continuing industry-wide drop at newsstands, and ad revenue remained flat.

Box-office results for Warner Bros., which released films "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" and "Happy Feet Two" at the end of the year, declined 39% to $369.2 million in the fourth quarter compared with a year earlier, according to research firm Box Office Mojo.

But Warner Bros. revenue increased 7% in the fourth quarter, the company said, mainly because of stronger home-entertainment and video-game slates and new video-on-demand deals. That was offset by lower box-office revenue.

The end of the studio's "Harry Potter" franchise will make for tough year-over-year comparisons, according to Alexia Quadrani, a JPMorgan & Co. analyst.

"The studio did all right, but it was tough because of Harry Potter last year," said Quadrani, who spoke in a telephone interview before the results were released. "At the same time, there's early interest in the next Batman film and their TV business is doing well overall," said Ms. Quadrani, who rates the shares "overweight" and doesn't own any.

Mr. Bewkes said in a statement that the company would continue to follow its recent priorities, including accelerating expansion of its "Content Everywhere" initiatives, such as the TV Everywhere strategy to put content from networks like HBO on platforms like the iPad, but only for paying subscribers.

The company sees 2012 growth in earnings excluding some items in the "low double digit" off a base of $2.89 a share. Analysts had anticipated a gain of about 9%.

-- Bloomberg News --

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