Ad Sales, Lower Costs Lift News Corp.'s 2Q Profit

LOS ANGELES (AP) - News Corp.'s earnings in the last three months of the year surpassed analysts' forecasts with better-than-expected advertising revenue growth at its cable TV channels like Fox News and lower costs. Losses continued to grow at MySpace, the social entertainment site that the company is looking to sell or spin off.

The media conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch said Wednesday that its net income more than doubled, as it booked sharply fewer charges and trimmed operating costs. The company said its cable channels, which also include FX and regional sports networks, are still expanding and adding subscribers. Chief Operating Office Chase Carey told analysts on a conference call that television ad revenue, particularly at the national level, is increasing strongly, adding that "second-half growth looks better" than the growth seen over the six months ended in December.

News Corp., which launched the world's first iPad-only newspaper on Wednesday, reported net income for its fiscal second quarter ended Dec. 31 of $642 million, or 24 cents per share. That's up from $254 million, or 10 cents per share, a year earlier, which included a $500 million litigation settlement charge in its publishing division.

The New York-based company, which also owns the 20th Century Fox movie studio and The Wall Street Journal, booked a pretax charge of $275 million in the latest quarter to restructure MySpace. That division cut nearly half its staff worldwide, affecting about 500 people, last month. Excluding restructuring and other charges in both periods, net income rose 16 percent to 29 cents per share from 25 cents per share a year earlier.

Revenue edged up less than a percent to $8.76 billion from $8.68 billion. Cable network programming revenue rose to $1.97 billion from $1.76 billion on stronger ad sales and higher affiliate fees while broadcast TV revenue grew to $1.37 billion from $1.25 billion. Those gains were partly offset by a decline in film and direct broadcast satellite TV revenue. Movie studio profits fell due to a difficult comparison with last year, which had been helped by the home video release of "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," although it released a couple of big money-earners in "Black Swan" and "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" in the quarter that just ended.

The company also trimmed its operating costs, which helped boost its bottom line.

The results topped the average estimates of analysts polled by FactSet, who predicted earnings of 27 cents per share on $8.67 billion in revenue.

Barclays Capital analyst Anthony DiClemente said the company's 17 percent growth in pay TV channel advertising beat his prediction for a gain of 11 percent, a performance he attributed to an improving U.S. economy.

"Ad demand from corporate ad buyers is strong and getting stronger," he said.

Earlier Wednesday, fellow media company Time Warner Inc. also reported a strong increase in quarterly profit on a recovery in advertising and healthy trends in subscriptions for cable channel HBO. The company, which owns Warner Bros., CNN and Time magazine, raised its forecast for this year, citing optimism about its TV business.

News Corp. reiterated that it expects annual adjusted operating income through June to rise in the "low double digit" percentages from the $4.46 billion it posted last year.

Shares rose a penny to $16 after the announcement, having closed the regular session up 40 cents, or 2.6 percent, at $15.99.

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