Cable revenues boost 21st Century Fox earnings

NEW YORK - Twenty-First Century Fox (FOX) on Wednesday reported fiscal first-quarter earnings of $855 million.

On a per-share basis, the New York-based company said it had profit of 46 cents. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, were 49 cents per share, in line with analyst estimates. 

The owner of Fox News Channel and the 20th Century Fox movie studio posted revenue of $7 billion in the period. The company said in a statement that its cable network programming saw a 10 percent revenue bump on higher affiliate and advertising revenues, but those gains were partially offset by an 11 percent increase in expenses related to sports programming costs, including contractual rights increases for Major League Baseball, among others. 

Fox shares have increased slightly since the beginning of the year. In Wednesday trading, the shares closed at $27.35, an increase of 1 percent in the last 12 months.

On the earnings call, Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch said management would not respond or comment on recent reports the company had held talks with Disney over a possible sale. "We will not be responding at all to recent press comments," Murdoch said. 

Discussions between the corporate parents of the 20th Century Fox film studio and Disney have taken place over the past few weeks but aren't currently active, CNBC's David Faber reported, although they could be revisited given their "on again, off again" nature. The Wall Street Journal, however, offered a more pessimistic take, saying the talks were preliminary and had broken down over price and other issues. An analyst estimated the value of the deal between $20 billion and $30 billion.

Fox and Disney are co-owners of the Hulu streaming network, whose "Handmaid's Tale" won the Emmy award this year for Best Dramatic Series, along with Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner (TWX).