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NEWS CORP. REPORTS IMPROVED QUARTERLY RESULTS

Fox Broadcast and Cable Networks See Boost From Ad Revenue

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- News Corp. posted improved results in its second fiscal quarter, partly due to improved ratings and advertising sales at its broadcast and cable networks.

The parent of the Fox broadcast and cable networks reported revenues of $4.7 billion for the quarter ended Dec. 31, up 14% from a year earlier, and net income of $239 million, up from a loss of $606 million in the year-ago period, which reflected a $909 write-down of the value of underperforming sports contracts. Factoring out the write-down and other special items, net income would have still risen 57.6%.

Strong performance for film
Revenue gains came from strong performance in the company's film division, as well as from increased advertising on the Fox TV network and increased advertising and affiliate sales on Fox cable channels, including Fox News Channel and FX.

Broadcast advertising revenues for the first two quarters of the fiscal year are approximately $100 million over the same period a year ago with no make-good advertising, said President Peter Chernin. He said advertising scatter pricing is running 20% to 30% ahead of the upfront market, and cancellations are running under 5% of commitments. Sales are pacing up in the mid-teen percentages in February and high teens in March, he added.

Reality TV programming
The success of reality TV shows American Idol and Joe Millionaire has lifted the Fox network schedule's ratings and allowed it to firm up pricing, Mr. Chernin said. He noted Fox executives are projecting that the season finale of Idol will receive similar ad pricing as the broadcast of the Academy Awards.

The network's sole weak point now remains an absence of strong scripted series, as well as a program vacuum left during the network's broadcast of the Major League Baseball playoffs that begin in October, Mr. Chernin said. The network plans to address both problems with a plan to open the fall season in late summer, with two new scripted and two new reality series. The earlier start of the season should not affect the upfront marketplace, at least initially, Mr. Chernin said.

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