AT&T's Turner Posts Stable Q4 Advertising, Distribution Revenue

Advertising revenue for AT&T's Turner TV networks and digital platforms cut its losses in the fourth quarter from earlier in the year to somewhat stable results -- sinking just 1.3% to $1.1 billion.

During an earnings phone call with analysts, John Stephens, chief financial officer of AT&T, said advertising revenue -- political and otherwise -- at CNN showed growth. Although he did not provide financial advertising details, he said CNN “was number one in all of cable viewership, not just news, in the fourth quarter.”

For the year overall, the Turner division was down 14% in advertising revenues to $3.94 billion -- largely due to COVID-19 issues, with sharply lower TV and media advertising beginning at the end of the first quarter of 2020 and extending well into the second quarter.

In large part, Turner’s subscription and distribution revenue from all its platforms helped stabilize its overall revenue picture --- up 1% in the fourth quarter (to $1.92 billion), slipping just 1.6% for the year overall (to $7.61 billion)

Turner's combined revenues were virtually flat in the fourth quarter, slipping 0.6% to $3.42 billion and 4.2% lower for the year overall to $12.6 billion.

Due to massive theatrical revenue declines at WarnerMedia’s Warner Bros. unit. after widespread theater closures, Turner TV networks and platforms rose to become the largest revenue contributor to WarnerMedia -- 41% for the year.

Behind Turner ‘s $12.6 billion in revenue, Warner Bros. came in at $12.2 billion and HBO (which includes HBO, the linear TV network group, and HBO Max, the premium streaming platform) was at $6.8 billion.

According to AT&T's SEC filing, “results from Turner, Home Box Office (HBO) and Warner Bros. businesses are combined with AT&T's Regional Sports Networks (RSN), Otter Media Holdings and Xandr [the advanced advertising unit] in the WarnerMedia segment.”

Although Turner has shown stability, its outlook may be shaky long term, according to Craig Moffett, senior research analyst at MoffettNathanson Research. Some of this has to do with AT&T’s virtual all-in approach, he says, when it comes to its effort around high profile streamer, HBO Max.

“Despite this relative stability, however, the core assets of TNT and TBS, are strategically very poorly positioned, with neither a strong value proposition to distributors nor a path to a direct-to-consumer future.”

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