Rupert Murdoch was the one taking the bows last week when News Corp announced its intention to split into two entities: one housing its vibrant entertainment assets and another with its older publishing ones. But COO Chase Carey is getting much of the glory in the eyes of shareholders, even though he’ll keep the No. 2 job at the entertainment unit where Murdoch will be CEO and chairman; Murdoch also will be chairman of the publishing company, with a CEO to be named later. News Corp shares have jumped 12% in the week since the news first broke. That’s at least partly due to the perception that the arrangement will shift power from Murdoch to Carey. “In a perfect world we would have liked to see Chase Carey in the CEO role and Rupert move up to the chairman role,” a senior fund manager at Invesco — News Corp’s third-biggest investor — says today in the UK paper The Telegraph. Kevin Holt adds that “Chase Carey’s involvement in this company is very important to our ownership.”
Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes and News Corp COO Chase Carey took the message to The Cable Show this morning, urging attendees to jump on the Internet video bandwagon — even if it means relaxing their grip on the relationship with their customers. “We’ve just got to do it faster,” Bewkes says about TV Everywhere, the service that enables subscribers to watch TV shows on mobile devices. Carey agreed that “it should go faster,” adding that “we get too hung up on protecting the rules of the past.” That was a subtle swipe at pay TV distributors who covet their gatekeeper role. Many fear that they could lose control once subscribers begin to use an iPad or other device to access shows directly from programmers — without a need for the operator’s set top box or on-screen guide. ”We’ve got to find a way to make all of these experiences easier to use and more accessible,” Carey says. “That requires us to work together.” Bewkes agreed. “Let consumers use the interfaces they want,” he says. “You’ll still have your subscriber relationship. We can’t develop the best, world-class interfaces at the scale that a distribution company has. Silicon Valley, the Internet industry, is a global industry and that’s what they do. We should harness that….Don’t try to hold that back. Consumers won’t allow it.”
UPDATE, 3:40 PM: Rupert Murdoch has plenty of time for Twitter, but hasn’t participated in one of his company’s quarterly conference calls with analysts and reporters since August. He missed the session again today — a little more than a week after a committee of UK’s Parliament blasted his handling of the company’s hacking scandal. So it was up to COO Chase Carey to defend his boss, and handle embarrassing questions including one about whether company leaders have considered asking Deputy COO James Murdoch — Rupert’s son — to step down. The answer: Nope. James was in charge of News International, which includes the UK publishing operation, as the hacking scandal unfolded. He gave up that job in February.
PREVIOUS, 2:00 PM: Rupert Murdoch‘s No. 2 opened News Corp‘s earnings call by firing back at Parliament’s Culture Media and Sport Committee which said last week that the CEO’s handling of the UK hacking scandal scandal made him “not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.” Carey says that “we take these issues very seriously” and “lots of work has already been done” to resolve the problems that surfaced from investigations into the scandal. He added that the committee’s conclusion was “unjustified” and “a purely partisan finding.” Murdoch has invested heavily in the UK, creating 19,000 jobs, and bought …
News Corp is fighting to disprove fresh charges that a video software and content security provider it has controlled, NDS, illegally helped to undermine Rupert Murdoch’s business rivals. News Corp COO Chase Carey said tonight that a BBC1 show that revived the allegations in a report on Monday “presented manipulated and mischaracterized emails to produce unfair and baseless accusations.” NDS chief Abe Peled demanded a retraction saying that the investigation that ran on the program Panorama showed “flagrant disregard to the BBC’s broadcasting code, misleading viewers and inciting widespread misreporting.” The allegations come at a sensitive time: They feed into the investigations into phone hacking and bribery at News Corp’s UK tabloids. Also, this month Cisco agreed to pay $4B for NDS. News Corp currently owns 49% of the firm.
News Corp COO Chase Carey threw down the gauntlet to Idol‘s producers today, telling investors that the show’s ratings are “disappointing” and that the franchise “can and should provide fresh energy.” The show is “a glass half full,” he told the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom Conference. It’s still big, but grappling with new competitors including NBC’s The Voice and Fox’s The X Factor. But Carey doesn’t seem to think that lets Idol off the hook: News Corp has factored into its financial guidance the fact that “the ratings aren’t where we hoped for them to be.”
For the most part, Carey was characteristically upbeat about News Corp’s prospects, especially in cable networks. He likes the fact that about half of Fox News’ pay TV distribution carriage contracts are due to be renewed in 2012 — an election year. Although he wouldn’t say how much additional revenue he expects to see in those deals, ”there’s a lot of growth left,” he says. He adds that “one of the great things” about the unit is that its costs are
Freelancer Cari Lynn is contributing to Deadline’s coverage.
Add the News Corp COO to the list of Big Media execs who believe that they were simply misunderstood in the debate that led Congress to put aside the Hollywood supported anti-piracy bills. “Clearly this got turned upside down, the whole issue,” he said at a conference sponsored by All Things D. Despite the claims of opponents, including those in the tech industry, the proposals empowering the government to block overseas Web pirates “isn’t about censorship…If they did it in the U.S., they’d be shut down. So they moved it offshore. You should still be able to shut them down.” He seemed to take a subtle dig at the MPAA for not making the industry’s case more effectively as opponents turned the issue into a populist crusade. ”If you look at what went on, you’d say that was not a process to replicate,” Carey says. The creative community didn’t ”anticipate the viral aspect and message getting twisted.”
Big Media Still Lack Big Ideas; Moguls No Longer Fear Netflix But Now Worry About Internet Video: UBS Confab Wrapup
For some strange reason, I thought at least one Big Media mogul would use this week’s UBS Annual Media and Communications Conference to reset investor expectations about the Industry. I waited for someone to say that it’s time for execs to stop licking their wounds from the last decade’s disastrous mergers and recessions and to start launching dynamic job-creating initiatives. I even expected someone might hint at a transformative deal that would expand the digital world’s supply of quality news and entertainment. The timing seemed right for all of the above since most of the CEOs noted that their companies are flush with cash and expect much more to flow their way in 2012, especially from the quadrennial advertising jolt provided by political campaigns and the Olympics. (Forecasters said that total domestic ad sales will be up anywhere from 3.2% to 4% in 2012.) Instead, the moguls mostly ladled out the same thin gruel they delivered throughout this year including their last round of earnings calls. They’ll collect additional revenues by syndicating content to digital streaming services. Or by demanding retransmission consent fees from pay TV providers. And returning cash to investors through dividends or share repurchases. hard to work up enthusiasm about such unimaginative strategies.
While the overarching themes of this year’s conference sounded a lot like last year’s, there was one important difference: Big Media isn’t afraid of Netflix anymore. At last year’s confab, moguls wondered publicly whether they should license TV shows and movies to the fast-growing company that seemed …
You wouldn’t know that the Hulu auction was a failure based on the way News Corp COO Chase Carey describes the owners’ plans. They decided to hang on to the digital video service because its value to them “dwarfed some of the values that were being put on it” by bidders including Dish Network and Google. Keeping Hulu reflects “a judgment that this digital space is incredibly important and is going to be, over the next five years and beyond, the most important field we have to navigate.” As a result, he told the UBS Annual Global Media and Communications Conference, “we’ll do what’s necessary to make it grow.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean adding movies to the package to make it more competitive with Netflix. ”Me-toos aren’t a great place to be in this business,” Carey says. “We want to look at it with a fresh eye.”
Investors strangely seemed uninterested in the News Of The World hacking scandal. But one of the consequences — News Corp’s decision to abandon its effort to buy BSkyB — was a concern. Carey says that it’s “one of the things we have to figure out” because he says the company gets ”a fraction of credit” it believes it deserves for its 39% stake in the UK media company. News Corp must ”do a better job communicating value.” Still, he didn’t leave investors empty-handed: Carey says that News Corp’s recently launched round of share repurchases is “certainly not a one-time thing. It’s an important part of our capital allocation,” he said, adding that News Corp shares are ”woefully undervalued.”
UPDATE, 2:35 PM: The comment about James came from News Corp president Chase Carey, filling in for Rupert Murdoch, who wasn’t on the quarterly conference call with analysts and reporters. Despite growing concerns about James’ role in the News Of The World hacking scandal, the deputy COO “has done a good job and we are not contemplating any changes,” Carey said. He added, in response to a question, that the company is taking “seriously” the strong opposition that several shareholders expressed at the recent annual meeting to many members of the News Corp board — which includes three members of the Murdoch family. “The board will, and is, discussing those votes,” he says. “The board continues to evolve. …. That being said, we’re proud of the board.”
In other matters, Carey says that “we’re not buying the (Los Angeles) Dodgers,” but didn’t elaborate. Sports costs are not a big concern for the company for now because “outside of Los Angeles, most of our contracts are long term,” he says. He’s also unfazed by the NBA strike, saying that “it’s not a significant financial event for us” although “we’d like to see them settle it.” Carey denied that Fox is offering make-goods ads for lower-than-expected initial ratings for The X Factor: ”We have the No. 1 show and make real money from it,” he says. “It came out a bit below where we targeted … but is building momentum.” Not much detail about the collapse of the auction for Hulu. Carey says that it ”has been a positive for us in terms of creating value” despite its “complicated ownership structure.” Carey also didn’t provide much insight into the new programming deal with DirecTV, although he says it’s “fair for both of us.”
RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank raises that intriguing question in a report today based on some back-of-the-envelope calculations. He says Fox has been hamstrung by a 17-year-old deal that limits syndication to local TV stations. “At the time, cable was a relatively insignificant contributor to major off-network syndication revenues; but over the ensuing years, cable grew to be as big an opportunity as (if not bigger than) local broadcast,” Bank says. But if the show is canceled, then the restriction evaporates and Fox can offer reruns to additional markets — especially cable or an online service such as Netflix. Bank figures Fox can score $1.5M for each of 506 episodes. That delivers $750M and with a cash flow (EBIT) margin of 60%, and a tax rate of 35% it adds 10 cents in earnings for each News Corp share. 20th Century Fox TV wants to keep The Simpsons going but is playing hardball, saying that it “cannot produce future seasons under its current financial model.” The cast offered to take a 30% pay cut, but Fox wants 45%. Meanwhile, COO Chase Carey has said that the company is thinking about the possibility of launching a Simpsons cable channel. “We haven’t drawn up any plans for a Simpsons Channel. But there are a lot of Simpsons fans out there. … It’s a real opportunity for us to do something truly unique,” Carey told analysts last month.
News Corp COO Chase Carey: “Nothing We’ve Seen” To Support Allegations That 9/11 Family Phones Were Hacked
News Corp COO Chase Carey bobbed and weaved today when audience members at the Goldman Sachs Commmunicopia Conference asked questions that touched on the company’s hacking and police bribery scandals. “The media noise has been surreal around it,” he says. “The truth will come out. The issues will work their way out.” He did note that there’s “nothing we’ve seen” to support the allegation — which the Justice Department is investigating — that News of the World may have hacked phones of families of 9/11 victims. Carey wouldn’t rule out the possibility that News Corp might renew its effort to buy the 61% of BSkyB that it doesn’t already own. “We’ll continue to be a shareholder. … We have a lot of flexibility if and when something arises.” He added that he’s “not going to get into speculating” about whether UK officials might force News Corp to give up its current shares in the satellite power. As for the newspaper publishing business — which a lot of investors would like to see News Corp dump – Carey says the company should “take a fresh look at it.” But that could involve expanding operations such as Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal. “There are things beyond (putting them on iPads) that we can do.”
News Corp COO Chase Carey continued the company’s effort to persuade Wall Street that all’s fine with its core media businesses — even as it struggles with multiple investigations into the News of the World scandal. “My role really hasn’t changed,” he said at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference. “As time goes on the issues will get better flushed out, particularly some of the issues beyond the UK. … We’re going to cooperate fully and take the appropriate steps.” Carey said he “won’t get into hypotheticals” when asked if there were specific steps the company could take to put the scandal behind it. Nor did he indicate whether the company might split its newspapers from the growing entertainment and cable properties. ”We don’t have a plan to do so,” he said adding that “it’s an historical foundation for the business, but that doesn’t mean you don’t look at it with a fresh eye.”
Echoing the message other media execs delivered today, he says the national ad market “continues to be robust.” Local sales are slowing, but could pick up next year as political ads kick in.
News Corp Scandal: Rupert Murdoch Gets A Huge Raise, Son James Rejects His Bonus And Jim Breyer Will Join The Board
Overseeing News Corp’s phone hacking and bribery scandal pays pretty well it seems. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch will be getting a $12.5M bonus, which with his salary takes him to $33M for the 2011 fiscal year, a 47% raise. Son James would have been getting $17.9M, but for some reason, he turned down his $6M bonus. All the brass is doing pretty well: CFO David DeVoe more than doubled his haul from $7.1M in 2010 to $18.2M. COO Chase Carey took home $30.2M, including a $10M bonus and $15.2M in stock. Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes is getting $15.6M. The numbers came out in an SEC filing. No word as of yet that the 80-year-old mogul wil turn down his bonus.
The Hollywood part of News Corp’s empire would love to see new board nominee Jim Breyer’s digital savvy and relationships deliver the kind of boost Steve Jobs gave Disney when he was on that board. The Accel partner is the new No. 1 on Forbes‘ Midas List and has the tech cred. He bet big on Facebook before it left News Corp’s MySpace in the dust and his company is the social network’s biggest outside investor. He’s on the WalMart and Dell boards and knows showbiz. He’s on the Legenary Pictures board and was a director at Marvel before Disney bought it. But the political and crime thriller that will play out in ”this exciting time in the company’s history” as he called it in a short statement, will be uncharted …
UPDATE: Rupert Murdoch Says He Has “Full Confidence” In James As A Possible CEO Despite His Role In Hacking Scandal
UPDATE 3:10 PM: Rupert Murdoch gave his son James — and the News Corp board — a vote of confidence today in the CEO’s first Q&A with analysts and reporters since early July, when the News Of The World hacking scandal turned his company upside down. Murdoch says that he and COO Chase Carey “have full confidence” in James to be a potential CEO of News Corp — even though three former company executives say James misled members of Parliament last month in his testimony about the scandal. Rupert joked that he hopes his job “won’t be open in the near future.” He added that “in the end it’s a matter for the board” to decide. And he says he does not plan to make any changes at the board, which is filled with directors who have close ties to his family. “It’s a very strong board — very often very critical,” Murdoch said. He specifically backed Viet Dihn, who’s classified as an independent director and is overseeing the company’s scandal investigation even though he’s also a godfather to one of Rupert’s grandchildren. Dihn “is a completely independent director,” Murdoch says. He sidestepped a question about how he now would alert himself to ethical problems at News Corp saying that “in retrospect we should have continued investigating” reports about hacking at NOTW that surfaced years ago. Reciting what sounded like well-rehearsed talking points, Murdoch said: ”Were there a dozen guilty people or two dozen? We are cooperating totally with police in their investigation and expect it to go on for some time.” Meanwhile Murdoch says he still wants to hold on to his newspaper assets in the UK and U.S. “I’m shocked and appalled at what happened at one small corner,” he says. “Everything else is fine.”
PREVIOUS, 1:08 PM: Rupert Murdoch says that he and the News Corp board believe that “I should continue” to be chairman and CEO. But he added that COO “Chase Carey and I run this company as a team.” Murdoch said in a conference call with analysts and reporters that “I’ve run this company for more than 50 years” and reporting tactics including the phone hacking discovered at News Of The World “have no place at News Corp.” He says that the board and the company have independently hired outside lawyers and a corporate governance expert to sort through the issues raised by the scandal. “There can be no doubt about our commitment to ethics and integrity,” Murdoch said.
UPDATE, 3:40 PM: Although the drama in today’s analyst call involved the News Of The World hacking scandal, News Corp execs made a few interesting points about the company’s less sensational business activities. COO Chase Carey says that the Hulu auction is “progressing largely according to plan.” But he left open the possibility that it won’t result in a sale, rhetorically asking “does it make sense to pursue that path or for us to stay in an ownership position?” He and Rupert Murdoch also said that they support the Fox Business Network, claiming it was just an oversight that they didn’t mention it when listing cable channels that are poised to grow. “The ratings are in fact improving,” Murdoch said, adding that “we need more distribution, it’s true.” Still he says Fox Business is breaking even on a cash flow basis. Carey also says that FX has the potential to become a bigger revenue generator. All told, Murdoch says that News Corp operations were “exceptional” in the last quarter providing the company with the “most robust balance sheet in our history.”
PREVIOUS, 1:19 PM: The media giant says that it did well in its fiscal fourth quarter — as long as you don’t count the $245M earnings hit from the MySpace sale. The company had net profits of $683M, down 22% from the period last year, on revenues of $8.96B, up 10.5%. Net earnings came in at 26 cents a share — but if you factor out MySpace they hit 35 cents. Analysts expected 30 cents.
What a bitter defeat for Rupert Murdoch. His News Corp this morning just finally made clear it has withdrawn its bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting. The news comes as British lawmakers were about to demand that Murdoch give up his goal of taking complete control over the lucrative U.K. broadcaster in a $14 billion bid for the 61% of the pay-TV operator that News Corp doesn’t already own outright. News Corp wanted to get its hands on all the UK satellite giant’s swelling £5.7 billion ($9 billion) revenues. It would have cemented Rupert’s position as the most powerful media baron in Britain and this as the biggest deal of his storied career. So the decision to withdraw his bid can be seen as his biggest business debacle as BSkyB was the last and most important piece of his ambitious plan to control satellite TV across the globe. Here’s the official News Corp statement, which trots out Murdoch’s No. 2 Chase Carey for the first time, presumably because he’s the only News Corp top exec left unblemished by the phone-hacking scandal and its subsequent cover-up and fall-out:
News Corporation (“News Corp”) announces that it no longer intends to make an offer for the entire issued and to be issued share capital of British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC (“BSkyB”) not already owned by it. Chase Carey, Deputy Chairman, President and Chief Operating Officer, News Corporation, commented: “We believed that the proposed acquisition of BSkyB by News Corporation would benefit both companies but it has become clear that it is too difficult to progress in this climate. News Corporation remains a committed long-term shareholder in BSkyB. We are proud of the success it has achieved and our contribution to it.”
The scandal sank a deal worth more than all of Murdoch’s papers combined. It was to have been approved at the start of last weekend but then was delayed until the Fall and then until 2012 because of the outcry. In an about-face today, British Prime Minister David Cameron put his party’s weight behind an opposition Labour Party motion up for a vote declaring that News Corp’s bid for full control of BSkyB would not be in the national interest. Meanwhile, Britain’s House of Commons was preparing to endorse a resolution urging Murdoch to withdraw his bid for BSkyB. Cameron told the body today that the scandal raised “serious questions” about the mogul’s fitness to run the country’s largest pay TV company. A government inquiry, he said, would consider “the way in which [News Corp] management failures may have allowed this to happen.” Leaders of all three major political parties are supporting the resolution, which would not be binding. But UK observers said it loomed as a powerful expression of the tide running against Murdoch’s newspapers.
The message for the television industry at this year’s National Cable Show was clear: It’s all about broadband now. Programmers agreed that they have to focus on consumers who want to watch video on their smartphones and tablet computers. Meanwhile, cable operators know that they can make a lot of cash by enticing new customers to buy broadband now that the TV service business is mature. The big question is whether the Big Media companies can move fast enough to head off competitors such as Apple, Google, and Netflix. But we’ll let the moguls have the last word:
Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman
- “For the content owners there’s never been a better time.”
- “Netflix is primarily a service that provides library programming. … Netflix got involved in one show (House Of Cards) that was a pay television kind of project, but that isn’t their fundamental business.”
- “If we are ad supported, (then) we need to have a measurement system in place so the mobile device in the home can sell ads. … (Nielsen) is not measuring it now. That’s one of the obstacles [for TV Everywhere].”
- “Consumers are changing. … People don’t want to watch the 17th repeat of the same show.”
- “In a world of a lot of choices, Snookie still rules.”
News Corp COO Chase Carey
- “We have to do a better job of exciting consumers.”
Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes
- “Let’s all cheer up. This isn’t the music industry. It’s the cable industry. … It’s morning in the cable industry.”
- “We’re all sitting here at this convention at the cusp of putting all of [our programming] on demand. … We need to get [shows] on every device.”
- “Put the TV on all the Internet devices and don’t charge people to do it and allow them to [access] they way they’re accustomed to.”
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts
- “We are demonsrating a whole new level of (Internet) speed. … It’s where the future of broadband is headed.”
- “We need to make the television feel as relevant as all of these other products [such as smartphones and iPad tablet computers].”
Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt
- “There’s no such thing as a TV anymore. There’s a video display device.”
- “I see Netflix as another programmer. But clearly if there is something that makes consumers not want to buy the big package (of programming) that we’re selling then that’s a threat to all of us.”
- “There clearly is a growing underclass of consumers that can’t afford [cable TV] and they want it. It would behoove all of us to have smaller packages… The economics make it difficult, but it would serve us well to worry about that group.”
Cox Communications President Pat Esser
- “You have to keep going back to the consumer and asking what they value. … Consumers wil reward you for doing that. And in some cases you won’t control all of it.”
UPDATE, 3:15 PM: Add NewsCorp COO Chase Carey to the list of executives of studio owners who characterize Premium VOD as merely a test that shouldn’t hurt theater owners. In a quarterly earnings conference call with analysts and reporters, Carey said that Fox and other studios are beginning to offer 8-week-old movies to cable and satellite VOD because they had little choice: Services such as Netflix and Redbox are renting DVDs for as little as $1 a night ”and that doesn’t work,” Carey says. “We have to build appropriate values and windows into our business.” Fox is “in the very early stages (of the P-VOD trials) with one small film.” He doesn’t want it to affect exhibition chains because they “set the pace for the film industry.” Still, he hedged when asked whether Fox would let exhibition companies see how well P-VOD movies perform — something that the National Association of Theater Owners says it wants. Carey says he “doesn’t know what request has been made,” although he adds that it’s “important for everyone to understand what’s going on.”
News Corp President/ COO Chase Carey is optimistic about the future of broadcast TV thanks to the emergence of the dual revenue stream model. That’s when, like their basic-cable cable counterparts, broadcast nets seek retransmission consent fees from cable and satellite operators to supplement ad revenue. ”I don’t think, with retransmission, we’re screwed,” Carey said about the broadcast networks today at HRTS’ first Newsmaker Luncheon of the season. “It has to be a dual revenue model, or it’s not realistic to expect broadcast to compete with cable.” Speaking of cable, Carey also said he will push for higher carriage fees for News Corp’s cable networks FX and National Geographic. “We have room to grow,” he said in the Q&A session.