Without an ‘Avatar,’ News Corp. Q3 Profits Fall 24%

Rupert Murdoch’s empire reports net income of $639 million, but also had to shoulder an $125 million legal settlement

Last Updated: May 4, 2011 @ 2:25 PM

Rupert Murdoch must really miss the Na'vi.

Without the blue skinned aliens from "Avatar," News Corp. profits plummeted 24 percent during the most recent quarter, the company reported on Wednesday.

News Corp. reported third quarter net income of $639 million ($0.24 per share) compared with $839 million ($0.32 per share) during the same period last year.

Quarterly revenue fell from $8.79 billion to $8.26 billion.

Wall Street had anticipated a more bullish fiscal picture, with analysts predicting earnings of $0.27 per share and revenue of $8.42 billion. Stocks slid more than 3 percent on the NASDAQ to $17.90 in after hours trading. 

Launch costs for animated hit "Rio" combined with the lack of a certain 3D smash, saw operating income for the company's film unit fall more than 50 percent to $248 million from $497 million in the year ago period. 

In his statement to investors, Murdoch acknowledged that the studio's underperformance was largely to blame for the sluggish earnings. 

“As we anticipated, News Corporation’s third quarter financial results faced challenging comparisons when set against last year’s record Avatar contribution at our Filmed Entertainment business," Murdoch said in a statment. "However, the great response to Rio and our confidence in our upcoming releases, indicate that the difficult comparisons in this segment over the past nine months are now behind us."

The latest results included a $125 million legal settlement involving News Corp.'s integrated marketing services business. A News Corp. spokesperson told TheWrap that without the settlement, profits would have been down 5 percent. 

One other drain on the company's bottom line was News Corp.'s iPad only newspaper The Daily, which lost $10 million during its launch last quarter, despite having more than 800,000 downloads. All told, profits for the company's newspapers fell to $36 million from $243 million last year, as advertising revenues declined and the company contended with the costly aforementioned legal settlement.

But the News Corp.'s television and cable business continued to be a strong engine of growth for the company. The television unit's operating income increased earnings 23 percent to $192 million, an increase of $152 million versus the same period a year ago. That growth was attributable to NFL Playoffs and Super Bowl broadcasts, as well as lower production costs for hit shows such as "American Idol," the company said.