Why Twenty-First Century Fox, Inc. Stock Dropped Today

As scores of TV viewers switched off their Fox habits in the fourth quarter, the media giant beat earnings targets but fell short of sales estimates.

Anders Bylund
Anders Bylund
Aug 6, 2015 at 4:48PM
Consumer Goods
Fox logo

Image source: 21st Century Fox.

What: Shares of Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOXA) (NASDAQ:FOX) fell as much as 13.6% on Thursday before recovering to a less drastic 6% drop. The enormous media conglomerate reported fourth-quarter results Wednesday night, beating Wall Street's estimates on the bottom line but falling short of revenue targets.

So what: Fox saw sales falling 9% year over year to land at $6.2 billion. The year-ago revenue figure excluded $1.6 billion of sales from Direct Broadcast Satellite, a TV service in Italy and Germany that Fox recently sold to U.K.-based industry peer British Sky Broadcasting in a $9.3 billion deal. Analysts had been looking for $6.5 billion.

On the bottom line, adjusted fourth-quarter earnings fell 7% to land at $0.39 per share. Here, the Street would have settled for $0.37 per share.

Investors largely ignored Fox's solid earnings to focus on weakness in the reported revenues instead.

Now what: Fox's cable networks division, which represents 58% of the company's total quarterly sales today, reported a 12% increase in affiliate fees led by strong interest in Fox News and FX Networks. At the same time, advertising sales for the same segment decreased by 2% due to low audience ratings for these networks.

A similar story played out in Fox's television segment, which largely consists of the Fox broadcast TV network and currently contributes 16% of the company's total sales.. Plunging viewership of former blockbusters such as American Idol and The Following led to a 14% decrease in fourth-quarter ad revenues for this division.

Fox is hitching its revenue-collecting hopes to a horse named top-shelf sports content.

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

"The appeal of our new sports rights resonated with consumers globally, whether it was STAR Sports in India setting new records with hundreds of millions of viewers for the ICC Cricket World Cup, or the more than 25 million viewers who watched the Women's World Cup Final on FOX," said Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch in a press statement.

Fox shares rose strongly in 2012 and the first half of 2013, but then traded largely sideways for the next two years. The stock has now left this lengthy plateau, but not in a good way. Thursday's intraday drop reached all the way down to prices not seen since early 2013, and Fox investors are currently looking back at a 22% drop in 2015.