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'Avatar' powers News Corp.'s quarterly results

May 4, 2010 |  2:08 pm

News Corp. reported a a 19% jump in total revenue to nearly $8.8 billion for the third quarter ended March 31, compared with $7.4 billion a year ago, thanks to the strong performance of its film, cable television and newspaper groups.

But the company's net income of $839 million, or 32 cents a share, was down 69% from $2.7 billion, or $1.04 a share, a year ago. The prior year's quarter included a one-time gain of $1.2 billion from the partial sale of its ownership stake in digital security company NDS. Operating income soared to $1.3 billion from $810 million a year ago.

The film group set a record for the highest operating income for any fiscal quarter, with a 76% jump in operating income to $497 million, up from $282 million a year ago. The results were bolstered by the worldwide box office receipts for "Avatar," which exceeded $2.7 billion. Another holiday release, "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," generated more than $440 million in global ticket sales.

The television group showed improvement, with increased contributions from the television station group as the local ad market has rebounded. These results were partially offset by results at the Fox network, which were lower due as programming costs increased and ad revenue fell because of lower ratings. Operating income of $40 million was up significantly from the $9 million a year earlier. 

Cable network programming reported a strong third quarter, with operating income of $588 million, up from $426 million a year ago. The $162-million increase in operating income reflects double-digit increases from the Fox News Channel, which achieved its highest quarterly profit as viewership reached its highest level during the quarter.

Newspapers and information services also reported an improvement in the third quarter, with operating income of $131 million more than tripling from $29 million a year ago. Increased advertising revenue at the Wall Street Journal and at U.K. newspapers drove growth in the segment, which also benefited from lower operating expenses.

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

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