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'Ice Age' heats up News Corp.'s earnings, but overall revenues experience cooling

November 4, 2009 |  2:04 pm

A strong summer box office, a healthy cable business and strong book sales helped News Corp. report an 11% increase in net income, helping to offset decreases in the media conglomerate's broadcast television, newspaper and Internet businesses.

The company reported net income of $571 million, or 22 cents a share, in its fiscal first quarter, compared with $515 million, or 20 cents, a year earlier. News Corp. said the year-over-year gains reflected higher operating profit and equity contributions due to the absence of a a $422-million write-down of its investment in satellite broadcaster Sky Deutschland AG (formerly known as Premiere AG).

Revenue for the quarter ended Sept. 30 fell to $7.2 billion, down 4% from $7.5 billion. 

Filmed entertainment posed an operating income of $391 million, compared with $251 million in the same period a year earlier, thanks to the box-office performance of "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," which it said is the highest international-grossing film of all time and generated more than $880 million in worldwide ticket sales. The results also include the home entertainment release of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine."

The television group reported a 26% drop in operating income to $38 million, from $45 million a year earlier, reflecting a drop in automotive, movie and political advertising. The cable networks, however, experienced a 41% jump in operating income to $495 million, from $350 million in the comparable period a year earlier. Fox News Channel achieved its highest quarterly profit and increased its operating income 79% compared with a year ago.

Strong sales of Maurice Sendak's classic illustrated children's book, "Where the Wild Things Are," and of L.J. Smith's "The Vampire Diaries" helped fuel HarperCollins' operating income, which rose to $20 million from $3 million a year earlier.

Update (8:25 AM, Nov. 5): For more on News Corp. earnings, including a shift in strategy at MySpace, see the story in today's Times.

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

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