Scorecards 2009: News Corp.

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Rating: 3 out of 5

 
It was an eventful year for Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. with management reshuffles and business challenges in various parts of the empire. Brass will remain busy in 2010 trying to strengthen struggling businesses and pushing to change the face of the industry in the digital age.

Chase Carey, who during the summer returned to News Corp. to replace Peter Chernin as Murdoch's right-hand man, has made retransmission fees a topic that will become only more prominent next year.

On the digital front, News Corp. still is focused on strengthening social networking site MySpace, which has been losing momentum but is trying to become a major destination for music and other entertainment content under new management put in place this year. The company also is planning to start charging for Web and digital content beyond the Wall Street Journal's successful site. Look for new announcements on that front in 2010.

Although Carey has emphasized that the conglomerate likes to build businesses rather than acquire them, News Corp. also is likely to look at potential acquisitions next year, including the inevitable Lion, cable networks and smaller digital media players.

On the television side, News Corp. will look to make Fox the highest-rated broadcast network with a spring season driven by the return of "American Idol," which last season showed signs of aging. To what extent Peter Rice, the former president of Fox Searchlight, succeeds in the role of chairman of entertainment at Fox Broadcasting also will be intriguing.

Fox Business Network likely will be under the gun to gain more traction, and progress will be demanded at such international businesses as Star TV and Sky Deutschland, which the firm has vowed to improve.

On the film side, News Corp. continues to face the issue of DVD-rental kiosk operator Redbox.

Company watchers also will look for signs of progress made by Murdoch's son James, who is seen as a potential successor to the mogul.

Like other entertainment biggies, News Corp. saw its stock rebound in 2009 amid signs of economic recovery. As of Friday, shares were up 66% for the year.

The company reports financial results for its fiscal year, which ends June 30. But looking at the first three quarters of calendar-year 2009, News Corp.'s film unit brought in another gain in operating profit and revenue, its broadcast business recorded a decline in both, and its cable networks division again was the growth engine that investors have come to expect.

Top performers

Film
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs ($197 million domestic)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine ($180 million)
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian ($177 million)

DVD
Marley & Me
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Taken
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

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