Chernin: Film release trials need more research

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NEW YORK -- While cable giant Comcast Corp. recently signaled that day-and-date film release trials show no negative effect on studio financials, News Corp. president and COO Peter Chernin said Wednesday his company needs to do more research before being able to fully evaluate the impact on its high-margin DVD sales and rule out any cannibalization.

Also, News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch signaled his firm won't raise the price of its takeover offer for Dow Jones & Co., but remains hopeful a deal can be reached.

The day-and-date trials have shown that the business model is "clearly positive for cable operators," Chernin said in answering a question from The Hollywood Reporter on his company's earnings conference call Wednesday morning. But early data received from Comcast is "not conclusive yet" on the DVD front and "it is very early days," he added.

The News Corp. executive said the conglomerate will really dig into data, especially from retail stores distributing its DVDs. While he declined to give a timeline, Chernin signaled results should become clear later this year.

He also said News Corp. has "a very good partner" in Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts, and the early Comcast data on day-and-date trials has been "quite positive."

However, he also signaled that recent comments from Comcast COO Steven Burke (HR 5/2) suggesting day-and-date releases are a financial win-win for cable firms and studios must still be confirmed. After all, Comcast is really keen on rolling out day-and-date releases on a broader basis, Chernin said, adding "this is a very important issue for us" and all other Hollywood studios.

Chernin also expressed an interest in expanded tests and said News Corp. is "about to enter" similar trials with Time Warner Cable.

On the earnings call Wednesday, News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said he wouldn't comment much on his company's recent $60 per-share bid for Dow Jones & Co., signaling he would do so once any takeover talks formally conclude "one way or another."

"I admire the Bancroft family (that controls Dow Jones) and new Dow Jones management," Murdoch said, adding he wanted to honor the family's privacy.

He did, however, repeat his view that Dow Jones could do better with more financial resources and called the two firms "a perfect fit."

Murdoch also signaled no interest in raising his offer, citing the "full and more than fair price."
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