SYDNEY, AAP – Broadcaster and publisher Nine Entertainment has reported a 79 per cent gain in first-half earnings after advertising increased by more than company leaders expected.

Nine on Wednesday reported a net profit after tax of $181.8 million, helped by advertisers spending more as Australia better controlled the coronavirus.

“The advertising market clearly turned in late September, earlier and more sharply than we had anticipated,” Chief executive Hugh Marks said.

The group’s television business, which brings in more revenue than its other operations, was the biggest beneficiary.

Group costs were cut by 13 per cent and helped offset a two per cent fall in revenue, compared with the previous first half.

Cost-cutting decisions included no longer funding wholesale news provider Australian Associated Press. News Corporation, which also funded the agency, made the same decision.

Nine operates TV channels, radio stations such as 2GB in Sydney, and publishes titles including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Mr Marks is leaving after five years at the company, but will remain until his successor is chosen.

Shareholders will receive an interim dividend of five cents per share, fully franked. This was the same as the previous interim payout.

Shares were higher by 6.18 per cent to $2.83 at 1153 AEDT.