Fox Beats Estimates With Growth in Pay TV, Cable Ad Sales

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Rupert Murdoch's entertainment company 21st Century Fox posted second-quarter results that beat analysts' estimates, benefiting from rising pay TV fees, higher ad sales and the Oscar-nominated hit "Gone Girl."

Earnings rose to 53 cents a share, excluding items, the New York-based company said Wednesday in a statement, topping the 42-cent average of analysts' estimates. Fox sold its interests in Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia during the quarter, recording a gain that boosted net income fivefold to $6.2 billion.

Mr. Murdoch's TV and film company is enjoying growth in two key areas, pay-TV fees and advertising sales at its cable networks, including industry leader Fox News Channel and newer outlets like Fox Sports 1 and FXX. Viacom Inc. and Walt Disney Co. earlier reported weak ad revenue.

Sales for the quarter ended Dec. 31 totaled $7.42 billion, excluding the satellite TV businesses that were sold, Fox said. Analysts were forecasting $7.34 billion.

Mr. Murdoch's film division led the industry in U.S. box-office sales last year, with $1.94 billion, according to Box Office Mojo.

The R-rated thriller "Gone Girl" was the studio's top release of the quarter, with $368 million in global ticket sales. Based on the book by Gillian Flynn, the film features Ben Affleck as a husband whose wife, played by Rosamund Pike, mysteriously disappears. Pike was nominated for an Oscar for her role.

Fox rose 2.3 percent to $35.47 in extended trading after the announcement. During the quarter, Fox completed the sale of Sky Italia and its 57% stake in Sky Deutschland to Sky for about $9 billion. Fox continues to hold a 39% stake in Sky, formerly British Sky Broadcasting.

--Bloomberg News

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