Profits making News

Rupe warm on Hillary

Rupert Murdoch on Wednesday downplayed his fund-raising for Hillary Clinton, calling the upcoming $1,000-a-head breakfast no big deal.

“It will be pretty modest support and give our people a chance to hear her. She’s been a pretty effective senator, and if anybody wants to come and spend $1,000, welcome,” he said.

“It’s not a big deal. It’s not a million-dollar (a plate event) and it’s got nothing to do other than her Senate re-election,” the News Corp. chairman-CEO said during a conference call on his media conglom’s latest financials.

Prexy Peter Chernin sees the Fox network heading into the upfronts next week “in the most competitive position we’ve ever been in.” And advertisers, he said, are clamoring for new packages linking old and new media.

Execs said News Corp. is mulling an IPO of satcaster Sky Italia, which swung to a $69 million profit from a $21 million loss in the year-earlier quarter.

News Corp.’s profits more than doubled to $820 million.

Revenue rose 3% to $6.2 billion. Operating profit grew 14%, topping $1 billion for the first quarter ever.

But studio profits and revenue slipped to, respectively, $225 million and $1.4 billion on tough homevid comparisons with the previous year and release costs for “Big Momma’s House 2,” “The Hills Have Eyes” and “Ice Age: The Meltdown.”

Numbers “are in no way indicative of the strength of our film business,” Chernin said.

He noted that “Ice Age” has taken in $590 million in worldwide box office since its release March 31, the last day of News Corp.’s third quarter.

TV profits jumped 29% to $268 million.

Fox Broadcasting was “solidly profitable” vs. losses a year ago on ratings momentum and higher pricing — partly offset by higher programming costs for returning shows including “American Idol” and “24.”

Station profit was down 4%.

Income at Star (India and China) rose 28%. Revenue grew 14%.

Total TV revenue dipped to $1.3 billion from $1.4 billion. That’s largely because the year-earlier quarter included $170 million from the Super Bowl.

Chernin’s bullish on the upfront, saying Fox’s success goes well beyond the “Idol” phenomenon. He cited “House,” “Family Guy” and “24” and newbies “Prison Break,” “Bones” and “American Dad.” He anticipates ad dollars that will be freed up by the UPN-WB merger flowing to Fox.

This upfront is the first that sees major media companies, News Corp. in particular, aggressively working in the online and mobile space. Chernin said advertisers are looking for opportunities to link new media with traditional TV buys.

To that end, he said Fox hosted a pre-upfront presentation last month called Generation Fox about how to combine its various properties, including powerhouse MySpace.com and Mobizzo.

Chernin said the company expected to make a steady stream of announcements of deals for distributing Fox TV shows on new outlets.

Chernin also said Fox’s new mini-web venture, MyNetwork, has affiliate deals that clear it in 73% of the country — expected to be above 90% by launch.

Elsewhere in the News Corp. empire, the newspaper biz saw profits fall to $153 million from $186 million. Revenue was about flat at $1 billion.

Profit for publisher HarperCollins dipped by $4 million to $26 million. Revenue slipped 8% to $275 million.

Magazines/inserts saw revenue of $300 million, up from $283 million. Income of $90 million was up $11 million.

News Corp. also said the board voted to raise its current $3 billion stock repurchase program to $6 billion.

Company had already repurchased nearly $2.5 billion in stock under the program announced in June.

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