Unintentional hilarity is usually not a good thing in a corporate earnings call, but when your results are as strong as those reported Wednesday by Time Warner (TWX), you can afford to have a sense of humor. The media conglomerate (which until last December owned DailyFinance parent AOL) reported a second-quarter profit of $562 million, up 7.3%, beating analysts estimates. Revenues rose 8% year over year, the company's fastest rate of increase in two years, with growth coming across a variety of its business segments, from cable networks to filmed entertainment to magazine publishing. Shares are up 1.2% in trading today on the news.
But analysts, investors and reporters calling into to hear the good news also got a dose of slapstick thanks to technical difficulties with the conference call. "Is the operator there? Hello?" said one exasperated Time Warner official as a variety of voices flooded the line, alternating with periods of total silence. "This is a mess."
Earlier in the call, an analyst asked Time Warner chairman Jeff Bewkes about the trend of cable operators agreeing to pay broadcast networks retransmission fees to carry their programming. (Up until a couple years ago, cable companies typically only paid such fees to cable networks on the grounds that broadcast signals were free over the air.) Bewkes responded that anything that puts more money into the pockets of broadcast networks ultimately benefits Time Warner, since they'll then have more to spend buying shows from the Warner Bros. TV studio. Moreover, he said, successful broadcast TV series that make it to syndication provide the fodder for cable networks like Time Warner's TBS. "It's a very beneficial kind of cycle for the industry and for us," Bewkes said.
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