Murdoch addresses economic ills

Mogul says he has no plans to more newspapers

NEW YORK -- Rupert Murdoch says he has no plans to buy more newspapers, including the New York Times.

And he told a Goldman Sachs investor conference here Wednesday that he doesn't expect his TV guru Roger Ailes -- chairman and CEO of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network and chairman of Fox Television Stations and Twentieth Television -- to leave his job any time soon.

"He's not going anywhere," Murdoch said of the 68-year-old. "He's very happy." He also emphasized his own happiness with Ailes' work and reiterated their friendship.

Just in case, though, he added: "Are there other good people he's developing? You bet."

Murdoch also discussed the state of the economy, predicting News Corp.'s TV stations and newspapers will gain advertising market share.

"Hard times are good for big companies" in terms of market share gain potential, he said.

Murdoch did reiterate though how sluggish local TV trends are in the U.S. right now. "The local television market in this country is bad," he said, pointing out sharp declines in auto ads.

Which News Corp. assets could surprise with their economic resiliency? The mogul cited the Wall Street Journal and "all our Internet activities," saying the current quarter is pacing ahead of expectations in terms of online ad revenue.

Asked by The Hollywood Reporter after his appearance if News Corp. manages its finances differently in the current market turmoil, Murdoch said: "You couldn't be more conservative than us. We have our cash in T-bills." That was a reference to Treasury bonds. Corporations often hold cash in that form because of their short maturity and liquidity.

Asked by an investor if he was interested in buying a video game firm, he said: "Find me a company that makes sense at a reasonable price. "I don't think you have to be in (gaming)."

Discussing Fox, Murdoch reaffirmed a recent comment from News Corp. president and COO Peter Chernin that the network will bring in its fifth consecutive year of ratings wins. He said Fox should end this calendar year in line with the three other big broadcast networks, putting it in an even stronger position. Fox has often been running behind the pack at that stage before the annual start of "American Idol" catapulted it into the lead.

Asked about emerging markets, Murdoch touted the "huge opportunity" in India, where he expects more News Corp. activity.

Murdoch on Wednesday also forecast that the Wall Street Journal's print edition and WSJ.com -- redesigned as of this week -- would boost their combined subscription revenue by $300 million-plus per year in the coming two to three years. He also said the WSJ.com site currently charges $100,000 per day for advertisers on its home page.

Given this week's market turmoil, it turned out to be a good week for the relaunch, he said. "Hits are an unbelievable number," he added without providing details.

Meanwhile, MySpace charges an average of $500,000 per day for ads on its home page, and sometimes as much as $1 million, Murdoch said.
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