Television division operating income soared 53% to $410 million in fiscal Q3 (January-March) as News Corporation saw overall operating income grow 16% to $1.4 billion. Yes, that included the Super Bowl for the Fox Television Network, but CFO David DeVoe said earnings grew by double digits in every segment of the TV division.
Operating income nearly doubled for Fox, with revenue growth from ad sales – including the Super Bowl – and lower primetime programming costs. For the Fox O&O stations, operating income was up 12%, with the Super Bowl driving advertising growth. In the quarterly conference call, COO Peter Chernin said pacing has slowed down for the stations, due to the tough economy, but he said the stations are increasing share in their markets. When asked about the importance of the station group going forward, CEO Rupert Murdoch called them “critical” and said the company is spending to increase local news on the Fox O&Os to further differentiate them from their in-market competitors.
MyNetworkTV is still losing money, but the company said that loss decreased in fiscal Q3.
The cable network business also grew operating income double digits – 17%, to be precise, to $330 million. Gains by the Fox News Channel, the Regional Sports Networks, FX and the Fox International Channels were partially offset by launch costs for the Fox Business Network and the Big Ten Network.
Murdoch, by the way, confirmed that News Corp. has submitted a bid for Newsday. He did not offer any details, but said the company will be disciplined in bidding for acquisitions. Asked about regulatory barriers to adding the Long Island daily to the company’s New York market holdings, Murdoch said there was little overlap by Newsday with the New York Post and thus no antitrust issue. As for the FCC, he said that would be handled when the licenses of News Corp’s two New York TV stations come up for renewal. “We are very confident we will get through that, even if we have to go to court,” he said.