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Fox Corp CEO Lachlan Murdoch: Fox won back ratings after second impeachment trial

Fox Corp CEO Lachlan Murdoch: Fox won back ratings after second impeachment trial
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The Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol dampened Fox News ratings, but the network quickly regained its ratings lead, Fox Corp CEO Lachlan Murdoch said in a third quarter earnings call Wednesday.

“Since the second impeachment trial, Fox News regained its leadership position and has maintained that leading spot ever since, averaging a 40 percent share of total day in primetime cable news audiences,” Murdoch said, according to transcripts from Aiera.

The company had predicted Fox News ratings would drop after the election, he said, but was caught off guard when the uncertainty surrounding the election and the Jan. 6 insurrection decreased ratings more than expected.

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“At that time, what we did not anticipate was the short but heightened news cycle that immediately followed the election and that clearly benefited our competition,” he added.

After touting Fox News's renewed ratings leadership, Murdoch spoke about the success of “Gutfeld!” the late night show the network launched April 5.

“The exclamation mark is apropos as since its launch the show is averaging over 1.5 million viewers per night,” Murdoch said.

“To put this into context, Gutfeld is drawing an audience that is roughly the same size as Jimmy KimmelJames (Jimmy) Christian KimmelCaitlyn Jenner slams Jimmy Kimmel for calling her 'Trump in a wig' Stephen Colbert is bringing back his live audience Fox News late-night show 'Gutfeld!' nears top of ratings race MORE Live and larger than The Tonight Show,” he added.

Murdoch then turned to Fox Nation, Fox News Media’s streaming offering, saying the service had seen a 40 percent increase in subscriber growth since the middle of February.

He attributed the growth to content like Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonFox launches Apple podcast subscription service FOX News Podcasts+ Overnight Defense: Top admiral shoots back at criticism of 'woke' military | Military guns go missing | New White House strategy to battle domestic extremism Top admiral shoots back at criticism of 'woke' military: 'We are not weak' MORE’s video podcast and said the company will be investing in new “programming for Fox Nation in the quarters ahead.”

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However, Scott Robson, a research analyst with S&P Global Market Intelligence a research analyst with S&P Global Market Intelligence, said it's worth noting that Murdoch did not offer more details about the performance of Fox Nation.

"FOX Nation subscribers growing 40 percent since mid-February is definitely a nice bump," Robson said. "But I’m not sure how many subscriptions that gives them overall. The fact that they are not offering that datapoint leads me to believe it is still pretty low."

Fox Corp is also expanding further into sports and sports betting, Murdoch said.

The company is acquiring sports news and opinion platform Outkick, he announced, and plans on launching an NFL branded video-on-demand channel this coming season.

Murdoch also announced that the NFL has designated Fox Bet, the company’s online betting platform, as an NFL authorized sports book operator.

Tubi, the company’s other streaming platform, is also doing well, Murdoch said, reaching 40 million monthly active users.

Murdoch said the company plans on adding more Fox content to Tubi, as well as original content, and has recently signed a deal with Scripps and Cox to add more local TV news to the streaming platform.

“Tubi will carry nearly 100 local station feeds in 2021, covering 50 [designated market areas] and offering the most robust local news offering of any free streaming service,” Murdoch said.

Financially, some measures of Fox Corp’s performance rose while others declined in the third quarter of the company’s fiscal year.

Revenue from affiliate fees - the money cable providers pay Fox to carry their networks - grew by 10 percent, the company reported. However, advertising revenues dropped by almost 24 percent, compared to the same quarter last fiscal year, from $1.57 billion to $1.2 billion.

The company blamed the drop in ad revenue, and a resulting 6.4 percent drop in overall revenue, to not owning the 2021 Super Bowl broadcast.

Robson said the company's revenue numbers made sense given where viewer rates were. The cable networks have seen overall ratings decline since the start of the year, though Fox less than CNN or MSNBC.

"Cable network ad revenue falling 7 percent seems OK given ratings were down about 30 percent across the board," Robson explained. "Affiliate revenue was about as expected given the baked-in rate increases to the carriage deals forged last year."

Overall, net income for Fox Corp fiscal year Q3 was $582 million.

--Updated on May 6 at 10:21 a.m.