News Corp.'s Q3 profit unchanged

One-time items boost results

NEW YORK -- News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch on Wednesday joined the growing chorus of media conglomerate executives saying the recession and advertising market declines are showing signs of stabilization.

"It is increasingly clear that the worst is over," Murdoch said a day after Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger talked about a light at the end of the tunnel and after his company posted a nearly 50% decline in under¬lying profit for its latest quarter be¬cause of the recession. "There are emerging signs in some of our businesses that the days of precipitous declines are done and that revenues are beginning to look healthier."

Also on the company's quarterly earnings call, CFO David DeVoe said News Corp.'s operating income is expected to fall about 30% this fiscal year. While there has been "a little more ad deterioration" at newspapers, there has been "some stabilization" in the local TV market, he said.

In his final earnings call before his departure midyear, president and COO Peter Chernin said MySpace also has seen strengthening of ad trends for this month and the next couple of months.

Chernin also called piracy a continuing industry challenge Wednesday, saying that the company estimates that the leaked "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" has been downloaded 4 million-plus times.

News Corp. posted an unchanged fiscal third-quarter profit of $2.7 billion thanks to one-time items, following its first quarterly loss in three years the previous quarter. The latest figures included one-time gains of $2.4 billion.

But underlying operating profit of $755 million declined 47% as double-digit growth at the cable networks and higher film and magazine units results were more than offset by declines at the company's remaining operating businesses. Quarterly revenue declined 15.8% to $7.37 billion.

Film unit profit rose 8% thanks to such theatricals as "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Taken" and U.S. syndication TV revenue from "How I Met Your Mother" and "Boston Legal."

TV unit profit plummeted from $419 million to $4 million amid weaker ad trends. Local TV station advertising markets declined nearly 30% in the quarter because of particularly weak auto, financial and movie ad trends.

Cable network results again were strong, driven by affiliate fee increases at Fox News Channel.
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