Fuji, Asahi a tale of two halves

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Two of Japan's largest private broadcasters have reported starkly contrasting business performances for the first half of the business year with Fuji Television Network Inc. recording a 19% improvement in net profit from the same period last year, while TV Asahi Corp.'s earnings tumbled more than 14%.

TV Asahi's profit for the April-September half came to ¥4.31 billion ($36.5 million), with pretax profit falling 12.8% to ¥7.97 billion ($67.5 million). The decline came in spite of a 1.1% increase in operating revenues to more than Y124.7 billion ($1.1 billion), the company said.

"Our sales are up but the biggest impact has been made by a rise in program costs," a spokesman for the station said Friday. "The price of making a show is becoming increasingly expensive, as well as steep rises in pay for actors and staff.

"We have set ourselves a target of increasing our share of viewership and creating new programs, while we also plan to reduce operating costs," he said. "In addition, we will step up our promotional events and improve sales of DVDs and other TV Asahi merchandise."

TV Asahi is predicting a group net profit of ¥7.8 billion ($66.1 million), down from the earlier estimation of ¥9.47 billion ($80.3 million), though the broadcaster says it expects to keep its dividend for the year unchanged at ¥1,400 ($11.86) per share, the same as the previous fiscal year.

But rival Fuji TV, Japan's largest broadcaster, was in fine fettle in the fiscal first half, with group pretax profit increasing to ¥26.23 billion ($222.2 million) thanks to reduced tax costs.

The corporation warned, however, that advertisers' strategy of diversifying their ad placements will inevitably hit the industry in the coming months and affect its bottom line.

For the full year through next March, Fuji TV anticipates a group net profit of ¥27.3 billion ($231.4 million) -- up substantially from ¥11.35 billion last year -- and a pretax profit of ¥47.7 billion ($404.2 million), down narrowly from last year's ¥50.34 billion.

It predicts ¥577 billion ($4.9 billion) in total revenue, down slightly from ¥593.49 billion in the previous year, and expects to pay the same ¥4,000 ($33.90) dividend to shareholders that it provided in the previous year.
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