Fox hopes for US election ad boost after ‘disappointing’ primary

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A presidential primary season that pulled in few viewers and advertisers has “disappointed” Fox, chief executive Lachlan Murdoch said on Wednesday, but he voiced confidence that this year’s US election would still boost the media group’s business.

“We obviously were disappointed for multiple reasons that there wasn’t a more competitive primary season,” Murdoch told analysts on an earnings call for the group behind Fox News and a string of local broadcast stations.

“But we certainly know this is an election which . . . all sides of politics are very focused on [and] have raised a tremendous amount of money. And that money will flow ultimately to local television. And we are extremely confident of that,” he added.

Murdoch cited tight US senate races in key states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania as contests where political advertising dollars would flow to Fox’s local stations.

US news media groups have typically enjoyed a boost to their audiences during election years. This was particularly true in 2020 and 2016 as a fascination with Donald Trump — the so-called “Trump bump” — helped Fox, The New York Times and others reach record audiences.

But the drama that captivated Americans during those contests has been largely absent this time around, according to news executives, with Trump and incumbent Joe Biden emerging early on as the de facto candidates. The majority of Americans did not want either Trump or Biden to run again, according to opinion polls.

Murdoch’s comments came as Fox reported that its quarterly revenue had dropped more than 15 per cent from a year ago, when Fox had broadcast the Super Bowl. Advertising revenues for the quarter to the end of March dropped to $1.2bn compared with $1.9bn in the same period a year ago.

However, Fox’s net income jumped to $704mn, compared with a net loss of $50mn a year ago when the company paid nearly $800mn to settle a lawsuit brought by voting company Dominion about its role in peddling election misinformation.

Fox shares were up 1.9 per cent in morning trading and are up about 9 per cent this year, narrowly underperforming the gain in the S&P 500 index.


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