Rupert Murdoch Appraises HBO Standalone Plans, Calls for 'Serious' Netflix Competitor

Associated Press

'As an industry, we need a competitor — a serious competitor — to Netflix and Amazon,' the mogul said

Rupert Murdoch has offered his initial impression of HBO's online streaming plans, saying that it's "going to be difficult" to execute a stand-alone service while negotiating with cable companies. 

The 21st Century Fox chairman and CEO spoke on Wednesday in the friendly confines of a tech conference held in Laguna Beach by his flagship U.S. newspaper, The Wall Street Journal. 

"They're charging the same price as the cable companies charge," Murdoch said of HBO. "[They'll get] seven and a half dollars, eight dollars and the cable company charges fifteen. They don't want to get into conflict with them, so they're really only aiming at the moment at the 10 million people who don't get cable. So they're charging fifteen dollars not to upset the cable companies." 

"It costs money, you've got to promote it very heavily. ... I think they'll do fine," the mogul said. On Oct. 15, HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler detailed plans for the channel to launch an online streaming service by 2015.

Read more Murdoch's 21st Century Fox Pay Rises Slightly to $29.2 Million

Earlier during the WSJ panel, Murdoch spoke about the joint ownership of Hulu, which 21st Century Fox has a stake in along with Disney and NBCUniversal. "Now I think we're all on the same page," Murdoch said, although conceding that it had been a "difficult partnership" in the past. 

"As an industry, we need a competitor — a serious competitor — to Netflix and Amazon," Murdoch said, noting that the streaming giants are ramping up their content creation and original programming schedules. 

Murdoch briefly addressed 21st Century Fox's failed bid for Time Warner over the summer. "We felt that we needed more critical mass and content and this was a wonderful marriage and fit," he said.

Given that the panel was entitled "Bets Won and Lost," the conversation turned to one of Murdoch's most notable failed investments, the $580 million purchase of MySpace that ended with the sale of the social media site for $35 million. The mogul reiterated, as he has many times, what happened. 

"We just messed it up," Murdoch recalled, saying that he helped install a layer of bureaucracy that hindered the growth of the site. "It was a series of expensive, lost opportunities." 

Murdoch was accompanied on the panel by Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim, whose net worth currently sits at $78 billion, according to Bloomberg's Billionaire Index. The panel was moderated by the Journal's editor-in-chief, Gerard Baker.