21st Century Fox Profit Tops Analyst Views on Super Bowl

21st Century Fox Inc., the film and TV company controlled by billionaire Rupert Murdoch, posted third-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates after drawing the largest-ever audience to the Super Bowl.

Earnings totaled 47 cents a share, New York-based Fox said in a statement yesterday. That compared with the 35-cent average of 21 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales increased 12 percent to $8.22 billion, beating the $8 billion average projection.

A record 112.2 million viewers tuned in to Fox’s Feb. 2 telecast of the National Football League’s championship game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos, routinely the most-watched TV event in the U.S. The network also benefited from NFL playoff coverage. The TV unit posted a $338 million revenue increase.

“Fox’s results were impressive particularly since many of its media company peers have reported weaker than expected advertising trends in the quarter,” Paul Sweeney, an analyst for Bloomberg Industries, said in e-mail. “The Super Bowl continues to be a ratings and advertising behemoth.”

The company’s largest business, cable networks that include the Fox News Channel, delivered 11 percent revenue growth, buoyed by rising fees from satellite and cable-TV operators, along with higher advertising sales. Murdoch separated Fox from his News Corp. publishing business in 2013.

Fox’s profit of 47 cents a share compared with 32 cents a share a year earlier, excluding one-time items from that quarter. Net income fell to $1.05 billion, or 47 cents a share, from $2.85 billion, or $1.22 a share, a year earlier, which was bolstered by a gain from Sky Deutschland.

Earnings per share have benefited from Fox’s steady stock repurchases, which totaled $1 billion in the past three months.

Fox rose 2.4 percent to $32.90 in extended trading after the announcement yesterday. At the close in New York, the Class A stock had fallen less than 1 percent to $32.12.

(Fox held a conference call after announcing its results. Visit http://www.21cf.com/Investor_Relations/ to listen.)

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