Turner, HBO and Warner Bros. drive Time Warner to strong quarter

"The Great Gatsby" starring Leonardo DiCaprio helped boost Time Warner results.
(Warner Bros. )

Thanks to a strong performance from its cable networks including TNT and TBS, media giant Time Warner Inc. posted strong revenue and profit gains and beat the estimates of Wall Street analysts.

Revenue at Time Warner grew 10% to $7.4 billion and the company had net income of $771 million, or 81 cents a share, up from $413 million, or 42 cents a share, for the same period in 2012. Besides the Turner networks, Warner Bros., thanks to “Man of Steel,” also helped drive results.

“This was a really successful quarter for us,” Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes told analysts.

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Time Warner also raised its full-year forecast, projecting that adjusted earnings a share growth would be in the “mid-teens” off a 2012 adjusted EPS base of $3.24 a share.

At Time Warner’s network group, which includes Turner Broadcasting and HBO, revenue was up 7% to $3.8 billion and operating income grew 13% to $1.3 billion. Giving the Turner numbers a boost was NBA coverage on TNT and the NCAA Men’s Basketball “March Madness” tournament, which is carried on several Turner networks.

On the call with analysts, Bewkes said he was confident that Turner would keep its relationship with the NBA for many years. The current deal expires in 2016 and Fox, which launches its own sports cable network later this month, has made no secret that it is eyeing NBA rights.

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Bewkes also praised CNN, which has improved its ratings under new chief Jeff Zucker. While he acknowledged that lots of breaking news stories were a factor, he said “we’re seeing real progress.”

Warner Bros., which houses Time Warner’s movie and television studios, saw revenue grow 13% to $2.9 billion primarily on the strong performances of “Man of Steel” and “The Great Gatsby.” Bewkes also noted that Warner Bros. Television was coming off a very strong selling season with a lot of potential to generate significant syndication money down the road.

Bewkes said the spinoff of its publishing unit Time Inc. would happen early next year rather than at the end of this year, as originally anticipated. Revenue at Time Inc. dropped 3% to $833 million as advertising fell 5% and subscription fees were off 7%.

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This was the first earnings call since Bewkes unveiled plans for a leadership change at Turner Broadcasting. John Martin, Time Warner’s chief financial officer, will succeed Phil Kent as chief executive there early next year. Kent announced that he would not renew his deal with the company.

When Martin takes the reins at Turner, Bewkes will have finished installing new leadership at the company’s key units including Warner Bros. and HBO.

Bewkes described his team as a “new generation” ready to take the next step.


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Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.