News Corp. to announce subscription service

Digital content service to offer news, entertainment

NEW YORK - News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch will announce in the coming weeks a digital subscription offer for news and entertainment content.

The media mogul has long talked about offering News Corp. and possibly other companies' content in digital subscription form, maybe via a new device.

On News Corp.'s earnings conference call Tuesday afternoon, he mentioned in passing that these plans for "an innovative subscriber model" for digital content, which would serve users wherever and whenever they want, are close to being ready for their unveiling.

He later added the company will likely have a news announcement on this front in the next three to four weeks. "We are in final discussions with a number of publishers, device makers and technology companies," he said.

Asked if it would include entertainment content in addition to news, he said it most certainly will, citing the popularity of entertainment content and conversations between Apple and all TV networks about a new possible subscription service for TV shows. Murdoch and deputy chairman, president and COO Chase Carey also reiterated in a different context on Tuesday's call that creating new revenue streams is a focus for them. The digital subscription offer would clearly fit in with this appetite to create new ways to make money off content in the digital space.

Which parts of the News Corp. empire will be part of the subscription service? Murdoch and his team have in the past hinted that the firm's various newspapers, TV stations, networks and Websites could all have a place here. It is expected that the initial focus will mainly be on news offers, with entertainment content to be added over time.

Asked if the service would be a competitor to Apple's iTunes, he said: "I guess so." But he then added it should maybe be seen more as an extension to iTunes.

Speaking of Apple, Murdoch started discussing the plans for the new digital content service offer Tuesday after once again citing the success of the Wall Street Journal's digital content offers, citing that 64,000 people are users of the paper's iPad app already. He also lauded Apple's iPad as a potential game changer for the consumption of digital content - another possible sign that the mogul may not want to directly compete with Apple too much.

But the mogul also once again criticized Amazon.com's Kindle e-book and e-paper reader for taking too much of a cut of content providers' revenue.
"Unlike (with) the Kindle, we keep 100% of the revenue from the iPad," he told the conference call.
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