Jeff Bewkes, chairman and CEO of Time Warner, speaks at Time Warner's… (Mark Lennihan )
"To me, the headline this quarter was the continued ... strength at our networks business," Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes boasted Wednesday as the media conglomerate reported strong financial results driven by channels including HBO, TNT and TBS.
Net income for the company as a whole and operating income across its business segments during the third quarter ended Sept. 30 was better than analysts had expected, driving a 3% rise in its share price to $44.41 by midday trading.
Time Warner revenue was down 3% to $6.8 billion, an expected decline due to difficult comparisons at the Warner Bros. studio, which during the same period last year released the final "Harry Potter" movie and sold the hit comedy "The Big Bang Theory" into syndication.
Warner Bros. revenue was down 12% to $2.9 billion, despite the box office success of "The Dark Knight Rises," which grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, and such successful new TV shows as "Revolution" and "Arrow."
The Burbank studio's operating income fell 37% to $328 million.
Total net income for Time Warner rose 2% to $838 million.
In the networks group, which includes Adult Swim, CNN and TruTV along with the more profitable HBO, TNT and TBS, revenue grew 4% to $3.34 billion and operating income increased 12% to $1.22 billion.
Chief Financial Officer John Martin said that was due in part to domestic advertising growth that offset declines overseas, while Bewkes said HBO is enjoying "the best domestic subscriber trends... that we've seen in years."
The premium cable network recently launched overseas in the Netherlands and Scandinavia and signed a new deal guaranteeing it access to movies from 20th Century Fox through 2022.
Repeats of "The Big Bang Theory" have been a huge success for TBS, though Bewkes said original series for that network and TNT have been strong as well.
"One area of challenge remains CNN," he added. Though the network garnered strong ratings with its election coverage and during Hurricane Sandy, it still lags far behind Fox News and MSNBC when major news isn't breaking. Bewkes said he expects to announce his new choice to run CNN by the end of the year.
In the company's struggling publishing business, revenues fell 6% to $383 million amid a difficult market for magazines. But thanks to ongoing cost cutting, operating income was up 2% at $127 million.
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