News Corp reports 19 per cent rise in revenue

MUMBAI: Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has reported consolidated revenues of $5.6 billion for the second quarter ended December 2003. This represents a 19 per cent increase over the $4.7 billion in the prior year.

It also reported consolidated operating income of $760 million an increase of four per cent over the $729 million a year ago, despite the inclusion of $106 million in losses from the pay TV outfit Sky Italia in the quarter. The year-on-year growth was driven by double-digit increases at the cable network programming, newspaper and book publishing segments.

The net profit for the second quarter was $361 million, an increase of $122 million over the $239 million reported in the second quarter a year ago. The television segment reported second quarter operating income of $168 million, an increase of $three million versus the same period a year ago. The results primarily reflect improvement at Fox and higher contributions from Star which were partially offset by a decline at the Fox Television stations.

Bolstered by a 20 per cent increase in revenues Star substantially increased its second quarter operating income versus prior year. Revenue gains were driven by both advertising and subscription growth primarily at Indian Hindi general entertainment channel Star Plus which on an average, continues to deliver all the top 10 cable programmes in the country.

New Corp's chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch was quoted in an official release saying, "Operationally, we recorded our eighth consecutive quarter of operating income growth, led by double-digit gains at our cable networks, newspapers and book publishing segments, and strong performances from our filmed entertainment and television segments despite difficult comparisons to prior year results. All of our key assets are performing well, including the television network, which after a difficult start to the broadcast season has once again reclaimed

ratings momentum and is now strongly competitive in the key 18-49 demographic.

"Strategically, we have continued to expand our global distribution capabilities with the acquisition of our interest in DirecTV and the rapid growth at Sky Italia.

We are looking forward to the unique opportunities these businesses provide us as we position ourselves for continued strong growth in the years to come."

The filmed entertainment segment reported second quarter operating income of $253 million, in-line with the $255 million reported in the same period a year ago. The results primarily reflected strong contributions from several film and television home entertainment releases as well as pay-TV and free-TV contributions from catalogue titles.

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