News Corp. Buys Stake in Video ad Network

Fox Networks, a year-old online advertising network owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (NYSE: NWS), will announce on Tuesday it has bought control of European video ad network Utarget as part of a move to expand in Europe and Asia.

While much is known about News Corp.’s Fox Interactive Media Internet unit, which oversees leading social network MySpace, .Fox has quietly embarked on an expansion outside the United States since its founding last year from the combination of two Latin American online ad networks — Click Diario and Directa.

The little-known division of Fox International Channels is being viewed as a potential linchpin for global growth for Fox Interactive Media’s MySpace group as it seeks to generate more ad dollars from its estimated 110 million monthly unique visitors around the world.

.Fox sells unsold ad inventory across a network of sites owned by Fox and third-party sites to advertisers outside the United States. The division will be renamed Utarget.Fox.

Financial details of .Fox’s purchase of a majority stake in Utarget were not available. A company source said the deal’s size was estimated to be at the low-eight-figure level.

Utarget operates an online video ad network of more than 630 Web sites and generates most of its revenue in Britain. It also has an office in Germany, the company said.

Its online video ad product lets advertisers run video ads in a separate window displayed beneath the page being viewed.

.Fox’s expansion addresses how News Corp., the most globally distributed of big media conglomerates, aims to grow its online reach outside the United States at a time when interest in viewing videos online has exploded.

“At News Corp. we always try to make sure that no two divisions are actually doing the exact same thing,” Hernan Lopez, chief operating officer of Fox International Channels, said in a phone interview.

The Utarget deal comes after U.S.-based Fox Interactive Media (FIM) reorganized staff last week in anticipation of a possible revenue target shortfall. The reshuffling, long in the works, will also see the launch of FIM’s long-anticipated U.S. online advertising network, called the FIM Audience Network.

Lopez said .Fox has been in discussions with FIM on how the two News Corp. divisions will work together. The discussions include the possibility of FIM properties such as MySpace using Utarget’s video advertising technologies.

.Fox is also interested in borrowing technology to build discrete audiences out of more than 100 million users worldwide using a FIM-developed technology called HyperTargeting.

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