Citing uncertainly surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, News Corp., the media conglomerate behind book publishing assets and newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, reported on Thursday quarterly and annual declines tied to its digital real estate services, which include realtor.com and Australia-based REA Group.
Digital real estate services revenue declined 16 percent year over year, to $238 million, according to fiscal 2020 earnings results and earnings for the fourth quarter, which ended June 30. For FY 2020 revenue declined 8 percent, from $1.16 billion. The total segment EBITDA for the fourth quarter and FY 2020 also declined by 10 percent and 9 percent year over year, respectively.
“The uncertainty regarding a general economic recovery, particularly with respect to the extent and pace of such recovery, continues to create volatility within the housing markets in Australia and the U.S.,” the report explained.
Meanwhile, realtor.com parent company Move, Inc. experienced a decline in revenue of 10 percent year over year, to $111 million. For FY 2020, revenues declined 2 percent year over year to $473 million. Despite weakened revenue, average monthly unique users and lead volume managed to balloon in the fourth quarter by 11 percent and 50 percent annually.
FY 2020, Move’s real estate revenues, which represented 81 percent of all Move revenues, increased 2 percent from FY 2019.
“Lead volume and audience remained strong at realtor.com, but Move continues to face weak industry-wide transaction volumes,” it added.
For both Q4 2020 and FY 2020 earnings results, News Corp. executives said COVID-19 customer billing relief measures were the main driver of revenue declines. In April, Move, Inc. offered real estate agents a 30-percent reduction on advertising and lead-gen services for their next monthly realtor.com invoice, and then later extended that offer into May.
However, increased revenues from realtor.com’s Local Expert, Market Reach and lead generation products helped offset losses, executives said Thursday.
This year has been rough for News Corp.’s digital real estate services segment, as revenue decreased 4 percent year-over-year from $272 million to $261 million in Q3 2020, which ended March 31. The company told The Real Deal in March it expected the impacts of COVID-19 to be more pronounced for Q4 and FY 2020, primarily due to billing-relief measures for realtor.com customers.
“Digital real estate was showing solid progress through January and February, but began experiencing pandemic-related declines in March,” News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson said in March of the 2 percent annual revenue decline at Move, Inc. during Q3.
Looking forward, Thomson said Move and Dow Jones’ executive teams are working together to drive traffic and subscriptions to both sites, in the hopes of turning around Q1 2021’s revenue trajectory.
“The new leadership team at Move is working closely with the Dow Jones executive team as the combined audience and lucrative demographic of the two sites in the U.S. is a hefty $124 million based on Comscore statistics as of June,” Thomson said in Thursday’s earnings call. “We are confident that the Dow Jones site will provide a flow of potential leads for realtor.com, and that realtor.com will provide a flow of potential subscriptions for the WSJ and Barrons.”