News Corp. President Talks Shine, BSkyB Deals
NEW YORK – News Corp. president, COO and deputy chairman Chase Carey discussed a recent and potential future deals for the conglomerate at an investor conference Monday.
Appearing at the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom Conference in Palm Beach, Fla., he said the recent acquisition agreement with Shine Group made business sense, adding a well-performing U.K.-based production firm to the News Corp. empire. He later lauded the TV production business, including overseas opportunities, as a key growth area for the company. Carey repeated a recent comment that Modern Family will likely be the highest first-cycle syndication sale ever.
Asked if the fact that Shine is run by Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter of News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, was a key reason for the deal, Carey said: "That had nothing to do with it." Observers have said Murdoch wanted to bring his daughter into his company’s fray given that son James is also playing at key role at the conglomerate.
Asked about News Corp.’s bid to acquire 100 percent of U.K. satellite TV giant BSkyB, Carey said the company continues to feel its bid price is fair. "We’d like to do this transaction,” he reiterated, but “we don’t have to do [it].”
News Corp. last year offered 700 pence a share, or about $14 billion, for BSkyB, whose board then suggested an increase to 800 pence, but the company’s stock price has since soared to more than 830 pence. U.K. culture secretary Jeremy Hunt last week approved the deal under one condition. News Corp. must spin off 24-hour news channel Sky News and put it under independent ownership.
While he didn’t provide a detailed prediction on which deal path News Corp. will pick for MySpace, for which it has been exploring options, Carey reiterated that the social networking site and its performance are “an issue.”
Discussing overall acquisition strategy, he said “we’ll selectively look at things,” reiterating the firm will remain focused on paying prices that make sense.
Carey also reiterated previous comments that his team will look for solid gains in affiliate fees in a range of Fox News carriage renewal talks, which he said start this year. "We head into our renewals on Fox News later this year in a big way," he said. "We have an opportunity to move Fox News to a place where we are able to capture the inherent value and importance of that channel to the marketplace out there." He didn't provide specifics on what kind of fees the network will ask for.
Asked about a potential NFL lockout, Carey said the odds of “losing an entire season are small."
Discussing Netflix, Carey echoed comments from Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes and others that Netflix is really for library product, or shows outside their current season runs, while Hulu is more focused on current seasons.
He said that News Corp. cable networks like FX will be careful when they pay for TV show reruns to make sure the shows don’t get wide online distribution at the same time.
Asked about Fox’s film output deal with HBO and whether News Corp. could take it elsewhere amid expanding digital options, Carey said it has “worked well” for both sides, but added that “we’ll evaluate it.” Given all the digital options – from Netflix to Amazon.com and others – the value of content has benefited, he emphasized.