Media giant 21st Century Fox Inc. (NASDAQ:FOXA) reported third-quarter 2014 results Wednesday afternoon, beating analysts’ estimates on earnings but missing on revenue. The Rupert Murdoch-controlled company reported flat earnings per share of 47 cents, compared to 47 cents per share for the same period last year. Revenue plummeted to $6.84 billion, from $8.22 billion for the year-earlier period, marking the third consecutive quarter of revenue decline for the company.
Analysts had expected EPS of 39 cents on $6.89 billion in revenue.
The Fox broadcasting network was aided by strong ratings for the breakout hits “Empire” and “Gotham,” but the boost wasn’t enough to lift its overall sagging performance. Analyzing Nielsen data, Marci Ryvicker of Wells Fargo estimated that Fox’s average ratings were down 35 percent in the quarter. The network faced tough comparisons with last year, when it aired Super Bowl XLIX. Excluding that event, ratings were down 9 percent, according to Ryvicker.
Fox’s cable networks fared better than most in the quarter, with ratings across the network group decreasing only 3 percent, compared to 10 percent for Disney, 16 percent for NBCUniversal and 22 percent for Viacom. Fox News Channel, which had the fourth-largest audience on cable in the quarter, continues to be a bright spot.
Fox’s cable business was also aided by the rebranding of FXX, whose 12-day “Simpsons” marathon in 2014 has been credited with saving the off-the-radar network. Ratings on FXX jumped an astounding 101.8 percent in the target demo, according to an analysis from MoffettNathanson.
Cable viewership in general saw a significant decline in 2014, and some analysts expect the trend to continue this year.