Media giant Viacom announced last week that it will spin off its video rental unit Blockbuster in a tax-free transaction expected to be completed by the middle of the year. The news came as the parent of CBS and MTV reported the company swung to a loss in the fourth quarter due to a $1.3 billion noncash charge related to a reduction in good will at Blockbuster. Viacom recorded a loss of $385.4 million, or 22 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $652.4 million, or 37 cents a share. Excluding the Blockbuster-related charge, Viacom’s fourth-quarter profit would have been $630 million. Revenue rose 11 percent to $7.5 billion, driven largely by gains in advertising revenue across all of its businesses. For the year, Viacom generated a profit of $1.4 billion, or 80 cents a share, up 95 percent from a profit of $725.7 million, or 41 cents a share, on an 8 percent increase in revenue to $26.6 billion.
Fox Entertainment Profit Rises for Fiscal Q2
Fox Entertainment Group last week reported a 17 percent increase in fiscal second-quarter profit to $330 million, or 36 cents a share, from a year-earlier figure of $283 million, or 32 cents a share, propelled by growth at the company’s cable properties and increased market share at the company’s television stations. Fox, 82 percent-controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., posted a 7 percent revenue increase to $3.4 billion. The broadcast network narrowed its operating loss to $133 million from $154 million a year ago, as sports advertising related to Major League Baseball helped offset a 10 percent decline in ratings and higher promotional costs. The results helped News Corp. post a 28 percent increase in fiscal second-quarter profit to $410 million, or 30 cents a share, from a year-earlier level of $320 million, or 24 cents a share. Revenue rose 19 percent to $5.6 billion.
Disney Reports Higher First-Quarter Profit
ABC parent The Walt Disney Co. last week reported a profit of $688 million, or 33 cents a share, for the first quarter of fiscal 2004, which ended Dec. 31, 2003. That figure is up sharply from a profit of $36 million, or 2 cents a share, in the first quarter of fiscal 2003, when the company booked a charge related to an accounting change. Revenue advanced 19 percent to $8.5 billion. At the company’s media networks division, operating income came in at $344 million, compared with an operating loss of $71 million a year ago, on a 6 percent increase in revenue to $3.1 billion.
Comcast Posts Fourth-Quarter Profit
Cable giant Comcast, currently negotiating a merger with The Walt Disney Co., reported last week that it swung to a fourth-quarter profit of $383 million, or 17 cents a share, vs. a year-ago loss of $51 million, or 3 cents a share, as revenue jumped 58 percent. For the year, Comcast showed a profit of $3.2 billion, or $1.44 a share, after posting red ink of $274 million, or 25 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue has more than doubled to $18.3 billion.
Cox Reports $11.3 Mil Fourth-Quarter Loss
Cox Communications reported a fourth-quarter loss of $11.3 million, or 2 cents a share, compared with a profit of $179.6 million, or 28 cents a share, a year ago, when the company recorded gains related to changes in the fair value of certain investments. Revenue advanced 12 percent to $1.5 billion. For the year, Cox reported a narrowed loss of $137.8 million, or 22 cents a share, from year-earlier red ink $274 million, or 45 cents a share, while revenue rose 14 percent to $5.8 billion. The improvements came as Cox’s telephone subscriber base grew by 38 percent for the year and its high-speed Internet service swelled by 48 percent.
Charge Adds to LIN’s Loss
The LIN TV station group, which owns 23 television stations in 13 markets, reported red ink of $44.2 million, or 88 cents a share, for the fourth quarter, compared with a year-ago profit of $12.7 million, or 25 cents per share. Revenue dropped 8 percent to $97.4 million. For the year, LIN reported a widened loss of $90.4 million, or $1.81 a share, vs. $47.2 million a year ago, or $1.13 a share. The company blamed the fourth-quarter loss on a $51.7 million charge related to a decline in value of LIN’s broadcast licenses.