Fox Looking to Finalize Reality TV Joint Venture Deal Soon

Trae Patton/NBC
'The Biggest Loser' is among the hit shows of Fox's Shine, which is looking to merge with Endemol and Core Media

"We have moved on" from Time Warner and plan no other mega-deals, president Chase Carey reiterates

No, 21st Century Fox really won't try to go after Time Warner again or hunt for another mega-deal, president and COO Chase Carey reiterated at a TV industry conference in London Tuesday.

But he said the company is looking to finalize a deal to create a reality TV powerhouse made up of Fox's Shine Group, Endemol and Core Media soon.

Speaking at the Royal Television Society London Conference, the right-hand man of Fox chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said: "The initiative behind Time Warner was about content" and a bet on "global content and brands." Fox about a month ago withdrew an $80 billion takeover offer for Time Warner, and "we have moved on," Carey said when asked if the company was really done with its pursuit.

"Time Warner was very much a unique opportunity" that "uniquely fit with us," he emphasized when asked if he had a list of other possible takeover targets. "There really isn't a second choice." He added that Fox doesn't have "an acquisition list."

Instead, the company would continue to focus mostly on building its existing businesses in the U.S. and in international markets, he said. The comments underlined comments Fox management had made right after pulling the bid for Time Warner.

Carey discussed a different planned deal on Tuesday, saying that Fox expects to pull off a combination of Shine, Core and Endemol in the "near" future. Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth sold Shine to Fox for about $500 million a couple of years ago.

Discussions have been ongoing between Apollo Global Management, the private equity firm behind Core and Endemol, and Fox to combine the three into a global reality TV powerhouse. In May, Fox confirmed reports that it was looking to create a joint venture between the companies and that a "preliminary agreement" had been reached, but emphasized there was no guarantee of a deal. 

On Tuesday, Carey said the deal was "in process," adding: " We hope it comes to a completion in the near-term." He later told reporters on the sidelines of the conference that financial and other details still had to be finalized. "There are a lot of moving parts to the process," he said. "We hope it closes short-term," he reiterated to THR without putting a specific time frame on a possible deal.
 
Shine Group CEO Alex Mahon during another session at the conference said that consolidation in the TV production space made sense amid a trend toward more deficit-launched shows. With a big company like Fox as its owner, Shine "can take the deficit," she said. "We wouldn't have had that chance before."

Asked about the plan by BSkyB, in which Fox owns a 39 percent stake, to acquire Fox's Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland, and whether it would set up Fox to completely exit the European pay TV business in a next step, Carey on Tuesday said: "We would not view it as selling or making a judgment on our bet on the future."

Asked about Fox's interest in possibly trying again to buy 100 percent of BSkyB, he said there are "no plans" right now but that he would never rule anything out. Enabling the combined Sky Europe to do well is the current focus, though, he added.

Fox's possible future plans for BSkyB have been debated by analysts and industry observers ever since Murdoch had to abandon a bid for full control amid the phone-hacking scandal.

Asked about his interest in U.K. content, Carey said it is attractive and can stand out, meaning Fox could invest more in it, but he highlighted that wouldn't necessarily require acquisitions.

Meanwhile, "Fox has no plans to acquire ITV," Carey also said when asked about the commercial broadcaster. Some industry observers have suggested John Malone's Liberty Global could acquire ITV after recently buying a small stake in it. That has led to suggestions that other U.S. entertainment giants might also take a look at the company. 

Asked what it was like to be a top executive at Fox without the name Murdoch, Carey said the company has been "fascinating and fabulous" to work for, given that it has expanded and built many businesses over the years, has remained entrepreneurial and has become "more international" than other entertainment conglomerates.

"I'm very happy with my position with the Murdochs," he said, adding that the Murdochs have been "great partners" and that "Rupert has been fabulous to work with." 

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

 

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