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Cable, Sports Carry Fox to Strong Q2 Earnings

The Fox networks saw a surge in ad dollars

Being the president’s cable network of choice has its perks, as advertising money flowing into Fox News — as well as a thrilling baseball postseason — helped parent 21st Century Fox to a profitable last three months of 2016.

After markets closed on Monday, Fox reported revenue of $7.7 billion and earnings of 53 cents a share for the three months ended Dec. 31, which is the company’s fiscal second quarter. That topped the company’s performance for the corresponding period last year, when Fox hauled in $7.4 billion in revenue and earnings of 44 cents a share. It also bested analyst expectations of 49 cents a share in earnings, although revenue fell slightly short, $7.68 billion compared with a projected $7.72 billion.

“We delivered a second consecutive quarter of double-digit earnings growth, driven by solid increases in affiliate and advertising revenues across cable and television,” Fox Executive Chairmen Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch said in a statement accompanying the earnings. “Our record-breaking post-season baseball run underscores the immense value of our sports programming, as well as the broader competitive advantage we have built through our other leadership positions in entertainment and news. We also continue to excel creatively, with our television studio producing the number one series on six networks, FX Networks leading all networks in Golden Globe wins and our film studio recognized with seven Academy Award nominations.”

One of the biggest reasons for the media conglomerate’s banner quarter was the performance of Fox News, which has been the most-watched cable news channel for 15 consecutive years. Fox stock has soared since the fall, rising 21 percent over the last six months, and investors were rewarded with another strong three months.

The network, which saw star anchor Megyn Kelly defect to NBC last month, is the Trump Administration’s preferred source of news — and advertisers are apparently willing to pay more to appear on it. Domestic ad revenue jumped 12 percent over the prior year, which the company said was primarily driven by strong ratings at Fox News and an exciting baseball playoff season on Fox Sports 1.

Fox also had the Super Bowl on its flagship broadcast network Sunday, which is almost always the highest-rated TV show of the year — and this year’s exciting contest drew 113.7 million total viewers across Fox, Fox Deportes and streaming, including 111.3 million on big Fox.

On the studio side, Fox has dealt with a string of high-level executive departures over the past year, including film chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos, but its film slate has held up. Fox finished third out of all studios with 12.9 percent market share in 2016, behind global hits like “Deadpool” and “Kung Fu Panda 3,” and its filmed entertainment division reported a 29 percent increase in revenue from the corresponding period a year earlier. And the momentum is continuing into 2017: Fox’ “Hidden Figures,” which picked up a Best Picture nomination, topped the box office for the first two weekends of January and has reeled in $129 million domestically.