UPDATE 3-"The Lego Movie", HBO shows boost Time Warner results

Wed Apr 30, 2014 1:53pm EDT

(Adds conference call comment; updates shares)

By Soham Chatterjee

April 30 (Reuters) - Time Warner Inc raised its full-year earnings forecast after the box-office success of "The Lego Movie" and the popularity of HBO shows such as "Game of Thrones" and "True Detective" led to a near-doubling of quarterly profit.

The company, owner of the Warner Bros. movie studio and cable channels such as HBO and CNN, said its full-year adjusted profit would likely grow in the low to mid-teen percentage range, or better, for at least the next three or four years.

Time Warner, which is in the process of divesting its underperforming Time Inc publishing unit, is pinning its future on the booming filmed entertainment market.

The company had previously forecast 2014 adjusted earnings per share to increase by low double digits on a percentage basis over last year's $3.51 per share.

Time Warner also said it would accelerate its share buybacks in coming quarters.

Time Warner's shares were up 1.2 percent at $65.55 in early afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday after rising as much as 6.4 percent.

The company said it expects a "significant bump" in HBO content revenue in the second quarter as a result of its deal with Amazon.com Inc, under which the e-commerce company will stream some older HBO shows.

Time Warner also plans to invest more to boost HBO's original programming and to develop online streaming service HBO Go as younger viewers increasingly watch movies and TV shows on online services such as Netflix Inc.

The company confirmed it was in talks with Dish Network Corp , which has plans to launch an Internet-based TV-like network.

"We are not philosophically opposed to that kind of structure but we have to believe it will be additive and sustainable," Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes said on a post-earnings conference call.

HBO SHINES

HBO revenue rose 9 percent to $1.33 billion in the first quarter ended March 31.

"The Turner Networks and Warner Brothers continue to perform well but we believe HBO could be the real growth story," ISI Group analyst Vijay Jayant said in a note.

Time Warner broke out financials for HBO for the first time last quarter to show investors how it stacks up against Netflix.

Netflix's revenue jumped 36 percent to $1.07 billion in the first quarter as the company improved its original content with such programs as the critically acclaimed Kevin Spacey hit "House of Cards."

The Season 4 premiere of "Game of Thrones" on April 6 drew HBO's largest audience since "The Sopranos" finale in 2007, Time Warner said.

Warner Bros. revenue jumped 14 percent, helped mainly by strong performance of "The Lego Movie", "300: Rise of an Empire" and "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug".

The company said Warner Bros. is already working on another Lego movie for release in 2017.

Revenue at Turner, which includes CNN, TBS and TNT, increased 5 percent as domestic subscription rates and advertisement revenue rose.

Time Warner's net income from continuing operations rose to $1.29 billion from $754 million a year earlier.

Excluding Time Inc and other items, the company earned 97 cents per share. Wall Street was expecting 88 cents per share.

Revenue rose 9 percent to $7.55 billion. Analysts had expected $6.61 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Excluding Time Inc, revenue rose 10 percent. (Reporting by Soham Chatterjee in Bangalore; Editing by Maju Samuel, Don Sebastian and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)