Chase Carey: Comcast play for NBC Uni 'good'

Discussions to turn Hulu into subscription model underway

NEW YORK -- Speaking at the annual Media and Money confab Thursday morning, Chase Casey said he believes Comcast's play for NBC Universal is "a good deal" and "smartly structured."

As for regulatory hurdles, the News Corp. deputy chairman, president and COO told the audience in New York he didn't see necessary divestitures but he did think the transaction would be a template for how the Obama administration deals with the media landscape.

"I don't think they'll have to sell assets but it will be more about assurances of fair access. There will also be digital issues to sort out," he told interviewer Shira Ovide, a reporter for News Corp.-owned Wall Street Journal.

"All these issues will be debated given that there's a new administration with a more active regulatory perspective," Carey, who is now into his second stint at News Corp., said.

However, Carey does not think the deal will lead to "a hot period" of mergers and acquisitions in the media space. In very measured terms, Carey described how the biz went through "a challenging time" recently so that there is "a little bit of pent-up activity." But he called recent deals such as Disney's purchase of Marvel as transactions "driven by unique events" not the beginning of a boom in M&As.

In other remarks during the 30-minute question and answer session, Carey said he believed that broadcasters could no longer live by ad revenues alone, despite the fact that broadcast TV was still the dominant content provider.

"We're competing with our hands tied behind our backs," he said. He suggested that plans to turn Hulu, News Corp's joint venture with NBC and Disney, into a subscription model for viewing shows, was in discussion.

As for cable channels, Carey's view is that the emphasis going forward will be more on the quality rather than the quantity of outlets. "It's how to make channels as strong as they can be," that folks will be focused on, he opined.

Asked by Ovide what he thought the future of big blockbusters a la "Avatar" was, the exec said that in his view "event movies and hits" will remain a huge part of the movie business, as they bring "more value than ever" and allow for "multiple extensions of product."

"Avatar," which will be released by Fox mid-December, he termed "a great movie."

Nonetheless, Carey also suggested that managing costs is key.

"Fox," he said, "has done a good job of managing costs but we have to find ways to be disciplined and take advantage of new media." The good news, he added, is that the number of productions is going down. "A lot fewer movies: that's a good thing."

The two-day Media and Money conference is sponsored jointly by Nielsen and Dow Jones and is in its third year.

Nielsen is the parent company of The Hollywood Reporter.