Media empire NewsCorp yesterday posted results for its fiscal third quarter well down on the equivalent period last year but marginally ahead of analysts’ expectations.

The group reported operating income of $127 million excluding special items and $356m including – down from last year’s figures of $193m and $417m respectively. Revenues, on the other hand, increased slightly, from $3.24 billion in 2000 to $3.27bn.

The fall in earnings was attributed partly to the weak ad market and partly to a poor performance by NewsCorp’s film division, which posted a fall in operating income from $95m last year to $46m. Most other areas of the group’s business reported basically flat performances, though the cable network division reported a rise in operating earnings from $19m to $24m.

“We are greatly encouraged by our businesses’ ability to withstand the soft advertising market,” commented Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the media leviathan, “and we are as confident as ever that our strong brands, compelling products and global distribution network ideally position us for sustained growth.”

Analysts, however, are more interested in the DirecTV purchase talks with Hughes Electronics and the forthcoming upfront ad sales season as indicators of NewsCorp’s future performance.

News source: New York Times