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Fox Sports, FS1 Help 21st Century Fox Bolster Earnings, While ESPN Drags Disney Down

21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox Sports and FS1, just announced an uptick in earnings for both the fourth quarter as well as the year. With a significant portion of that growth attributed to sports. Meanwhile, over at Disney, ESPN continues to drag the brand through the mud with massive subscriber and financial losses.

While it’s difficult to cite just how much of a boon Fox Sports or FS1 has been for 21st Century Fox, the company’s financial report does make several explicit mentions of the sports network and it’s role in the increased earnings.

The financial statement shows that the company’s earnings are up significantly year-over-year, by at least nine percent, Awful Announcing notes.

Two key paragraphs state the success of the company’s sports coverage: “The very successful broadcasts of Super Bowl LI and the Major League Baseball (“MLB”) World Series, which delivered the most watched baseball game in a quarter century, grew Fox Sports broadcast viewership by approximately 25% over the prior year driving a 20% increase in television segment contributions.”

The report also notes, “The Television segment generated annual OIBDA of $894 million, a $150 million, or 20%, increase over the $744 million reported in the prior year. Annual segment revenues were 11% higher than the prior year due primarily to strong sports advertising revenue growth led by the broadcast of Super Bowl LI, the MLB World Series, which benefited from strong ratings and two additional games versus last year, and the inclusion of one additional National Football League divisional playoff game. Higher local political advertising spending at the television stations and continued growth of retransmission consent revenues also contributed to the segment revenue growth. These revenue increases were partially offset by lower network entertainment advertising revenues reflecting lower general entertainment ratings.”

The financial statement also cites Fox Sports 1 in a section on its increasing cable revenues with particular attention paid to its coverage of NASCAR and Major League Baseball.

Meanwhile, ESPN is still flailing and losing both subscribers, advertisers, and revenue.

From Disney’s latest reports, much of its financial woes can be laid at the feet of the company’s struggling cable division, which includes ESPN. According to a recent Bloomberg report: “Profits at the company’s cable networks division fell 23 percent to $1.46 billion, due to higher programming costs and lower ad revenue.”

To drive the point home, Bloomberg added, “Disney set off a meltdown in media stocks two years ago when the company acknowledged that ESPN, its most profitable network, was losing business as consumers canceled their cable TV subscriptions. The company has since cut costs, terminating on-air personalities while also looking to stem the viewer losses by extending ESPN into new, lower-cost pay-TV packages. Disney plans to introduce an online-only, subscription version of ESPN this year.”

So, while Fox Sports and FS1 seem to represent a positive and growing ingredient in 21st Century Fox’s success, ESPN has been anything but helpful to Disney.

With more and more fans saying that ESPN leans too far to the left, and a seeming refusal of the cable network’s brass to do a whole lot to change that perception, it appears that the bottom is not yet in sight for the nearly 40-year-old sports network.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com.

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