MySpace could be TheirSpace

FIM might open site to non-Fox content providers

News Corp.'s MySpace could open itself to programming from other content companies, Fox Interactive Media president Peter Levinsohn said Wednesday.

In addition, Fox Entertainment Group has hired a president for digital media, Dan Fawcett, filling the post vacated in November by Ross Levinsohn.

Speaking at the Bear Stearns Media Conference in Palm Beach, Fla., Peter Levinsohn said that his company is "in very active negotiations with all the media companies" in regard to bringing non-News Corp. content to its MySpace property. Currently, only such Fox shows as "24" and "Prison Break" are available on the social networking portal.

Levinsohn also said a multinetwork video site that would be a rival to YouTube would be in MySpace's interests. "There's certainly an opportunity for the media companies to get together," Levinsohn said. "MySpace will be a huge beneficiary of that."

In recent months, there has been increasing speculation that multiple media companies could band together to establish an online video platform that could rival YouTube, which is enmeshed in negotiations to license their content. Fox has taken recent steps to put its own programming on MySpace as well as the sites of its affiliates.

Levinsohn said MySpace has been successful in tapping international markets as well. They have rolled out the service in 10 countries — several in Western Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and New Zealand — and Levinsohn said the service is the No. 1 social networking site in the U.K. and Australia.

Speaking about News Corp.'s other Internet properties, Levinsohn said he is "happy" with IGN, a network of gaming and entertainment sites, which is coming off its biggest quarter ever. He admitted that the company can do a "better job" of monetization with FoxSports.com.

Overall, Levinsohn said FIM was on track to generate $500 million for the fiscal year. Last quarter, the group took in $125 million.

Merrill Lynch issued a report this week hailing FIM for its growth potential, projecting a doubling of ad sales by 2009. Expansion of its ad-sales staff and improved technology are cited as key drivers of increasing cost-per-thousands on MySpace.

Fox Entertainment Group, which Levinsohn ran before moving on to FIM to replace his cousin, is bringing on Fawcett, previously executive vp programming and business/legal affairs at DirecTV. He also worked as executive vp business and legal affairs at Fox Cable Networks.

Fawcett will be charged with leading FEG's digital strategy.

"Our digital media group has already launched one of the most aggressive expansions into the digital space of any media company, and we're confident that under Dan's leadership it will continue to get stronger, more innovative and more competitive," said Peter Chernin, president and COO of News Corp.

Andrew Wallenstein reported from Los Angeles; Alex Woodson reported from New York.
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