News Corp. Takes $8.4 Billion Writedown

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News Corp. announced a net loss of $6.4 billion in the final quarter of the year, the company's second fiscal period, as it wrote down the value of its TV operations, newspapers and information services in the amount of $8.4 billion.

News chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, commenting on the company's performance, said the results were a "direct reflection of the grim economic climate."

Murdoch was not sanguine about conditions improving any time soon, saying the downturn had been more severe than expected and would likely last longer than predicted. He noted that News would continue efforts to cut costs across the business.

There was some good news, though, as cable network programming drove double-digit profit increases. Operating income was up 27% in the period, thanks to contributions from Fox News Channel, the Big Ten Network and Fox International Channels.

The television segment, though, suffered. Second-quarter operating income fell $227 million to $18 million as a result of decreased earnings at Fox TV stations, Fox Broadcast Network, Star, the company's Asian pay-TV company and MyNetwork TV. Operating income at the stations dropped 44% against the year-ago period. Local TV advertising in the quarter declined an estimated 19%, a drop reflected in part by the sale eight of its stations last year.

Broadcaster Fox also saw lower ad revenue -- a precise number wasn't given in the earnings release -- a consequence of lower ratings from Major League Baseball and fewer ballgames.

The quarter has historically been weak for the network, as it comes before the networks' hit shows, notably No. 1 American Idol and Keifer Sutherland's 24, return to the air.

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