News Corp heralds digital on way to $US1.4b loss

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp reported a bigger loss than the previous year

Telstra and News Corp merged Fox Sports, formerly 100 per cent News Corp owned, and joint-venture Foxtel in April.

"There's no doubt Foxtel has the best portfolio of programs and sports rights, which has been enhanced by cricket rights".

"Australian audiences are willing to pay for premium programming, [more so] than we previously assumed". However the subscription TV service reported lower subscription and advertising revenues in the full year.

"We generated strong revenue and segment EBITDA growth in the digital real estate services and book publishing segments which, together with the consolidation of Foxtel, drove over US$1 billion in profitability for the year", he said.

In December, Australia's competition watchdog the ACCC gave the proposed merger between Foxtel and Fox Sports the green light.

Foxtel loomed large in the News Corp's global figures with last quarter's $1bn write down of the subscription TV operator increasing the group's net loss to $US1.4bn, an increase from $US643 million a year ago.

The loss is the second in as many fiscal years for the publishing giant, after posting a US$643 million negative effort in FY17.

Digital revenues represented 30% of News and Information Services segment revenues, compared to 26% in the prior year, reflecting strong paid digital subscriber growth at mastheads.

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The group's revenues totalled US$9.01bn, up 11%, while earnings before interest tax and depreciation hit US$1.07bn, up 21%. Adjusted revenues increased 2%.

"Improving subscription volumes will be key to our long-term value creation" for that business, Panuccio also said, adding over-the-top (OTT) "will be a key growth initiative and our goal will be to maintain the broadcast subscriber base and manage churn effectively". The Wall Street Journal average daily digital subscribers in the three months ended June 30, 2018 were 1,590,000, up from 1,270,000 a year ago.

The decline was driven by weakness in the print advertising market and the decision to cease The Wall Street Journal's worldwide print editions in the second quarter of fiscal 2018.

"News Corp is now a more substantial company after the Foxtel transaction, with a much higher percentage of recurring, subscription-based revenues, which should help offset a volatile advertising environment".

News Corp Australia revenue grew 1%.

Advertising revenue now makes up less than a third, with subscriptions and non-advertising revenue contributing 70%.

Thomson said that News Australia would continue to undergo tight cost control.

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