Earnings: News Corp.: FIM: $125 Million Revenue For The Quarter; Google Deal Binding, Not Complete

Listening to the News Corp. earnings call now and, as expected, some more details on Fox Interactive Media during the prepared remarks and now during the Q&A. Asked directly about the questions swirling around the Google-FIM deal, COO Peter Chernin said, “We do have a binding letter of agreement and we are significantly over delivering on our guarantees.” But Chernin said the companies are still working on the complicated “long form” and that several areas are under discussion, including places where they are looking to “mutually benefit each other.”
— FIM had $125 million in revenue during the last quarter, attributed primarily to MySpace.com. MySpace had about 20-25 percent growth over the previous quarter. Chernin reminded analysts that News Corp. already had said it expects FIM to over deliver on the projected $500 million revenue for 2007. Revenues for MySpace tripled over the year and were up 70 percent for FIM overall. Chernin: “If anything … we have seen our monetization growth momentum increase over this year over the last year, as we are starting to see some of the improvements we have made in advertising technology and advertising sales force begin to take effect.”
— FIM had its first profitable month in December. Chernin expects the unit to be “marginally profitable/breakeven” in 2007 and for profitability to increase “dramatically” in FY08. A funny exchange followed: Chernin: “I think our hopes are that we can get this thing up to a margin in the low 20 percent range in FY08.” Murdoch: “I think that’s pretty pessimistic. I think we can do better than 20 percent.”
Digital downloads: News Corp. is one of the few companies that piggybacks a press call onto the analysts’ call. When I asked Chernin about the company’s syndication strategy, noting the experimental nature of late, Chernin said “experimental” was a good characterization: “We believe that this is a good time to experiment widely with the dissemination of our content. Anybody who respects our copyrights, we’re largely willing to try things. … I think right now what we are trying to do and certainly what I’ve instructed the people at FOX Digital Media to do is get our content out there, get it available to users. Let’s try and monetize it on a download basis or paid download basis. Try it on advertising-supported stream basis. Let’s try and get it aggressively on MySpace, let’s try and get it aggressively on our station websites. And so we are trying to do a lot of different things right now, and we will hopefully be smart enough to move aggressively in the areas of those who are successful and move away from the ones that aren