News Corp. Profits Rise to $2.85 Billion

Domestic ad revenue takes hit from lower 'American Idol' ratings

Chase Carey

Film, television and cable operations boosted News Corp.’s third quarter profit to $2.85 billion, up from $937 million for the same period last year.

Earnings per share rose to $1.22 from 38 cents off of $9.54 billion in revenue, a 14% increase from 2012. That beat average analyst expectations of 35 cents per share.
Operating income increased to $1.36 billion, up from $1.31 billion last year, including charges.

Those increases helped offset profit declines in News Corp.’s publishing arm, which sank to $85 million from $130 million last year. Company reported a $25 million charge relating to the spinoff of its publishing division, which execs expect to complete at the end of June. News Corp. also reported a $42 million charge relating to the ongoing U.K. hacking scandal and ensuing investigation.

The success of “Life of Pi,” “Taken 2” and “Ice Age: Continental Drift” drove filmed entertainment profits up to $289 million, a slight uptick from $272 million in 2012.

Cable network programming increased operating income to $993 million from $846 million, while television bumped up to $196 million from $171 million.

During a call with analysts on Wednesday, News Corp. president chief operating officer and deputy chairman Chase Carey emphasized a focus on growing the new FS1 and FXX networks.

“We want to build businesses, not buy businesses,” he said. Carey estimated that that it would take between three and five years for both networks to become profitable enough to outweigh incremental programming expenses.

International affiliate fees were up 42% while domestic affiliate fees rose 11%. Domestic ad revenue was up just 2%, due in large part for lower “American Idol” ratings. Carey said the conglom was “clearly disappointed” with primetime ratings declines, but pointed out that the 2012 presidential election boosted last year’s numbers and that he was “looking forward” to debuting programming at next week’s upfronts.

Company did not outline details of its capital allocation strategy, but promised to share more details on its leverage targets and stock buyback program during its 21st Century Fox — the name for News Corp.’s entertainment unit once the publishing split is complete — investor meeting this August.