N.Y. Times CEO Talks New FX, Hulu Doc Series 'The Weekly'

Mark Thomposn-New York TImes CEO-Getty-H 2019
Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch

"We're going to look at whether we can extend in TV," Mark Thompson on Monday told an investors conference in San Francisco.

As The New York Times gets set to launch The Weekly, a documentary series for FX and Hulu, CEO Mark Thompson on Monday said the newspaper giant is eyeing doing more TV news shows based on its quality storytelling.

"We're going to look at whether we can extend in TV," Thompson told analysts during an address to the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco that was webcast. The Weekly, the publication’s first foray into TV news that is set to air on FX and stream on Hulu, builds on the Michael Barbaro-hosted podcast The Daily that has helped pioneer a narrative approach to news by the traditional publication as it expands into the digital realm.

Thompson gave no word on when The Weekly will launch, after its premiere was pushed back into 2019. The series will be produced by The New York Times and Left/Right, a Red Arrow Studios company co-founded by Ken Druckerman and Banks Tarver. In addition to the FX’s linear telecast and Hulu’s second window, episodes will also be available to view on FX’s VOD services, FXNOW and FX+.

Thompson told the investors conference that branching out into podcasting and TV aims at sustaining digital subscriber growth at the Times that spiked in the wake of President Donald Trump's election in 2016, but has since reached a plateau before starting to recently trend up again.

"When after the 2016 election, we saw a very significant — transient — but very significant acceleration in the model, that was great. But what would it take to deliver that or higher rates of acquisition of new subscribers, organically," and not rely on Trump to bring in new subscribers, he said of his digital foray into new revenue streams.

But while Thompson stressed getting TV viewers to sample The Weekly on FX and Hulu was a way to sign up new digital subscribers, the goal was not to getting the Times' storytelling talent and content onto as many digital platforms as possible. He instead applauded HBO and Netflix for focusing on offering quality content to subscribers to sustain their own business models.

"They can see that's how you punch through in pay TV. People have to come to you," Thompson told the investors conference. The exec conceded, however, that, unlike HBO and Netflix, many consumers that register with the Times but have yet to subscribe do sample some of its news content for free.

"But we are pretty insistent that someone who really wants to consume a lot of our content ultimately will get into a registered, logged-on and subscriber relationship with us," Thompson said.