The constant barrage of information from the White House, both alternative and otherwise, helped push viewership at Time Warner’s CNN news network, leading the programmer to a 4% increase in revenue in the fourth quarter.
Time Warner’s CNN, constantly called out as a “fake news” network by the current President of the United States of America, managed to win the top spot among news channels for adults aged 18-49 in primetime and was the No. 1 digital news destination in 2016. Ratings for the channel were up about 77% for the year, accordng to IndieWire. Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes seemed to bask in that fact during a conference call with analysts to discuss results Wednesday.
“Let ‘s just say that again: The No. 1 news network among adults 18-49 in primetime and the No. 1 digital news destination in 2016,” Bewkes said, adding that CNN was also the No. 1 news network across all cable and broadcast networks on election night Nov. 8. Despite President Trump’s obvious disdain for the channel, and Fox News winning the overall ratings crown for the year – it had nearly twice the overall average nightly viewership of CNN (2.5 million vs. 1.3 million for CNN), Bewkes seemed encouraged by the network’s continuing momentum.
“We have every confidence that CNN will continue to reinforce its reputation not only as the source the world turns to for trusted news coverage, but also as a destination for compelling original series and documentaries,” Bewkes said on the call.
Overall, revenue at the programmer was up 11% to $7.9 billion and operating income increased 22% to $1.7 billion. Earnings, at 40 cents per share, were down 62% compared to the prior year.
At its Turner division, which included CNN, TNT, TBS and Cartoon Network, revenue was up 7% to $2.8 billion. Affiliate fee revenue was up 14%, while domestic ad revenue was flat.
At Home Box Office, revenue rose 6% in the quarter to $1.5 billion and operating income rose 9% to $429 million.
Sanford Bernstein media analyst Todd Juenger said in a note to clients that results were in line with analysts’ expectations, offering some solace to investors who may worry that its pending $108.7 billion acquisition by AT&T may not get approved.
In a note to clients, Juenger wrote that Q4 results were “perfectly in-line across the board, providing re-assurance to investors whose primary concern in the ‘no deal’ branch of the risk/arb equation is ‘what could blow up?’"
While Turner’s domestic advertising revenue was flat, Juenger said it was buoyed by the News division, which appears to have substantial runway ahead.
“We have been concerned that when News laps its impossible comps, it could expose underlying weakness at the entertainment nets,” Juenger wrote. “But so far, News viewership keeps going strong, with no end in sight.”
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