Fox CFO Touts "Unique" Studio Strategy, Feels "No Urgency" to Boost or Sell Sky Stake

The Birth of a Nation Still 5 - H 2016
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

The company is looking for "special movies," such as 'The Birth of a Nation,' in addition to franchises.

21st Century Fox is focusing more on movie franchises, like other conglomerates have done, but is also continuing to put out "special" movies, making its strategy "unique," chief financial officer John Nallen said Wednesday.

"What we have seen from an industry standpoint is franchises are that much more important to the multiyear strategy around a film studio," he said during a session at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit in New York, which was webcast. Nallen cited such Fox franchises as X-Men, Ice Age, Maze Runner and Avatar.

Beyond those, "we’re looking to develop new franchises," he said, citing how franchises make film unit performance more dependable over longer periods. As examples of possible new franchises, Nallen mentioned the upcoming releases of Assassin’s Creed and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. He said that those films "hopefully, like Deadpool, capture something.”

But the Fox CFO also argued that the conglomerate's film strategy differs from those of fellow Hollywood giants. “We uniquely make sure we slide in the real special movies and the ones that capture some quadrant that the entire franchise movies don’t capture," said Nallen. He mentioned The Birth of a Nation as an example of such “special movies we know will do well and catch an audience."

Birth of a Nation, about Nat Turner, the slave who led a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831, is set for an October release.

Nallen also was asked about Fox's plans for its 39 percent stake in European pay TV giant Sky as Wall Street has been debating whether it would eventually sell it or take full control. While he reiterated previous management comments that this was not “the right end state,” Nallen said: “Our view hasn’t changed at all. Our focus right now on Sky is Sky executing on what was the business case for putting the three Skys together. ... They are delivering on that. So, for us, right now, our focus is to allow Sky’s stock price to transfer into the Fox stock price and achieve a value that we should be achieving.”

He continued: “At the moment, there is no urgency for us to do anything other than harvest value out of Sky. ... There is no catalyst for us to say we need to change that.”