Cable Nets Help to Boost News Corp.

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News Corp. said Wednesday that it posted its third consecutive fiscal year of double-digit revenue and operating-income growth.

The media giant reported fiscal fourth-quarter revenue of $5.5 billion, up 20% from $4.6 billion in the previous-year period. Consolidated operating income of $747 million was up 31% versus $570 million in the year-earlier quarter. Net profit rose $29 million to $399 million from $370 million in the prior-year quarter.

For the full year, News Corp. posted revenue of $21 billion, up 20% from $17.5 billion in the previous year; operating income of $3.1 billion, up 21% from $2.5 billion last year; and net profit of $1.6 billion versus $1 billion in fiscal-year 2003.

The company said its operating income from cable-network programming was $154 million in the fourth quarter and $617 million for the full year, representing increases of 60% and 43%, respectively.

News Corp. added that the results reflected continued growth across all of its primary cable channels, as well as the absence of losses from Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers, which it sold during the third quarter.

Fox News Channel chipped in with operating-income growth of more than 40% for both the fourth quarter and the full year as higher advertising pricing drove strong double-digit revenue gains compared with the previous year.

Operating profit at the media giant’s other cable networks -- FX, Speed Channel and its regional sports networks -- rose 46% for the fourth quarter and 27% for the full year, primarily driven by revenue growth at the regional sports networks and FX, News Corp. said.

At the sports channels, increased affiliate rates and direct-broadcast satellite subscribers combined with improved advertising sales to drive operating-income growth, which was partially offset by higher programming costs from additional events and rights increases versus a year ago.

As for FX, increased advertising revenue from strong ratings and higher pricing and its subscriber base expanding by 5% drove growth, which was partially offset by increased costs related to entertainment programming, including The Shield and Nip/Tuck.

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