Web’s profits soar

TV Azteca earnings grow sevenfold

TV Azteca, Mexico’s No. 2 web, on Wednesday said fourth-quarter net profit grew 646% to $64 million.

Earnings were boosted due to comparisons with fourth quarter 2005, when the net took a $44 million hit from restructuring the biz of Internet site Todito.com.

Revenues at the web owned by Mexican retail and mobile telephony tycoon Ricardo Salinas Pliego were up 3% to $240.7 million, boosted by growth at its U.S. subsidiary, Azteca America.

Azteca America — which is currently nabbing less than 5% of the U.S. Hispanic aud and is struggling to increase its ratings against dominant U.S. Hispanic broadcaster Univision and NBC Universal-owned Telemundo — reported sales growth of 20% to $10.9 million.

TV Azteca’s full-year earnings were up 71% to 200.6 million while 2006 revenue grew 8% to $886.2 million, as web enjoyed extra revenue from last summer’s soccer World Cup and political ads ahead of national elections.

Legal squabbles with NBC Universal-owned Telemundo will continue this year. TV Azteca last year filed a suit against Telemundo after Alan Tacher, the former host of TV Azteca’s popular singing competish “La Academia,” signed up to host a reality show on Telemundo.

U.S.-based web has countersued, and the case is heading for a jury trial this fall.

NBC also filed a complaint late last year with the FCC to prevent the license renewal of Azteca America’s flagship L.A. station, alleging TV Azteca execs lack the moral character to run a U.S. station.

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