News Corp. Executive: James Murdoch's News International Resignation Was Just A Delayed Step

James Murdoch - Speak At The DLD11 Conference - H - 2011
Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Fox Networks Group president David Haslingden sees upside for the National Geographic Channel and says the son of Rupert Murdoch stayed on as head of the U.K. newspaper business, which has been embroiled in the phone hacking scandal, "longer than anticipated."

NEW YORK - James Murdoch's resignation on Wednesday as executive chairman of News Corp.'s U.K. newspaper unit is mostly a delayed step that was long expected inside of the entertainment conglomerate, David Haslingden, president and COO of the Fox Networks Group, told an investor conference on Wednesday.

"Really there is little change," he said at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. After the son of News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch last year took on the bigger role of deputy COO, he stayed on as head of the U.K. newspaper business "longer than anticipated" in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, he said. "This is probably a delayed announcement."

PHOTOS: News of the World's Top 10 Scandals

His Fox Networks Group has growth upside in various areas, Haslingden told the conference, including the opportunity to make more money from selling additional content rights to Comcast's Streampix video streaming service and similar future offers from other cable operators.

Over half of the conglomerate's operating cash flow comes from his business, and Haslingden said it is in a "very, very strong position" for continued growth.

He singled out the National Geographic Channel as one of the biggest opportunities in the U.S. After executive changes at the channel, the company is already seeing dividends, with the first series launched by the new team, Doomsday Preppers, drawing a 0.8 rating in its recent launch, compared with the network's 0.29 average, he said.

"The leader in this category is Discovery," and Nat Geo hasn't gotten things right to date, he added, echoing similar comments from News Corp. president and COO Chase Carey on Tuesday. "If we get the creative side of this business right, there is an enormous amount of headroom."

Haslingden also mentioned Spanish-language network MundoFox, a partnership with Colombian broadcaster RCN Television, saying it requires "very little" investment. The company expects to see money drop to the bottom line within two years, and if the network gets things right, the financial benefits could be "very significant," he said.

Discussing the outlook for the L.A. Dodgers TV rights, he said "we are prepared to be disciplined."

Haslingden took over the Fox Networks Group early last year.


Twitter: @georgszalai