Fox's Chase Carey Talks Fox "Ratings Headwinds," Time Warner Bid

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Rupert Murdoch's right-hand man also discusses his future and admits he still turns on ESPN instead of Fox Sports 1

21st Century Fox knows that "clearly we have some ratings headwinds on the entertainment side" of the Fox network, president and COO Chase Carey ‎told an investor conference in New York on Thursday.

He also once again discussed the failed bid for Time Warner, his future at the company and growth opportunities for the conglomerate. Rupert Murdoch's right-hand man also said out of habit, he still turns on ESPN instead of Fox Sports 1 when he comes home even though Fox has been pushing its new network. Old habits die hard in media, but the sports channel will build a bigger audience over time, he said. "It’s time to break the habit," he said about his own sports viewing behavior. 

Discussing his recently signed shorter new employment contract at the conference, Carey also said he would sign another extension if his job keeps being rewarding and the company wants him to stay, but also signaled that at some point the next generation will take over. “At some point it will be time for the next generation of leadership to take over.

Together with Murdoch and the board, "we’ll decide when that is," Carey said. "I have no plans other than to do my job to the best of my ability." He didn't specifically mention Murdoch sons James Murdoch, who serves as co-COO now, or Lachlan Murdoch, co-chairman of Fox.

Appearing at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in a session that was webcast, he said the company expects to hit overall 2016 guidance, but entertainment network ratings are running below the target, with other areas making up for that, including retransmission fees and sports. "With our targets for '16 we are not expecting to hit those original targets," he said.

"We're not where we planned to be," he said about the Fox network's entertainment performance, reiterating "we are making changes to address" that and see the current year as one for "stabilizing and moving forward."

Carey also once again commented on Fox's recent unsolicited bid for Time Warner and its later withdrawal. "We've moved on," he said once again.

He repeated that Fox felt TW "really gave us an opportunity to put in place a unique company" with unique content and brands and wasn't pursued to counter consolidating pay TV giants. It would have "added scale in businesses we know," and it "really felt they were businesses that fit with us." He also said the merged firm would have had "new growth opportunities, particularly internationally" and a chance to build the "next generation of experiences"

But Carey said Fox feels "strategically complete" and is now focusing on execution. Among assets that he said management feels it can take to the next level are Fox Business and National Geographic.

Asked about planned online pay TV services from the likes of Sony, Dish Network, and Verizon, Carey on Thursday said Fox is "engaged with a lot of players" and "excited" about such new opportunities, but cautioned that services offering fewer channels could lead some pay TV users dropping broader TV subscription bundles. "Skinnying down has complexities," he said.

The first day of the Goldman gathering on Wednesday had featured appearances from the likes of Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton and Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes.

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

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