Fox‘s Deputy COO particularly likes the fact that Dish Network agreed to disable the ad-zapping function in its Hopper DVRs for the first three days after it records an ABC show. “Protecting certain windows is important” — especially the three-day period that’s most important for TV ad sales — James Murdoch told the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference today. As part of the deal Disney dropped out of the suit that Fox and other broadcasters filed against Dish, which charged that its DVR’s capability to automatically skip past ads in recordings of their shows infringed on copyrights and violated contracts. Murdoch shied from discussing Disney’s changes in depth, but said that “overall it looks like it’s a positive step forward. But it’s a step.” He also left a lot of wiggle room in his response to a question about Comcast’s $45.2B agreement to buy Time Warner Cable. “You can clearly see the rationale…But this one we have to watch very closely.” He suspects “there’ll be more to come” as regulators and others investigate how much clout Comcast would have over broadband access and pricing.
On other matters he was consistently upbeat. The growth in Internet-delivered video services is “super exciting.” Fox’s game plan is to “experiment and license [content] to a number of providers…There’s a commercial balance to be struck but it has to evolve over time.” Murdoch says that he looks forward to having some “clarity” about Aereo as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to rule on broadcasters’ copyright infringement case against the streaming service. If Aereo prevails then “we have business solutions. Some of them are radical, but you don’t just let this keep going.” (For example, Fox has threatened to air prime time shows just on pay TV.) The exec also says he isn’t particularly worried about the cancellation of X Factor. “It does leave a hole to fill but we think we can program that night pretty well.” Nor is he concerned about CBS’ recent deal that will enable the network to air NFL football games on Thursday nights for eight weeks this fall. “I don’t think it really changes how we approach those nights and how we program.” Meanwhile Murdoch is optimistic about Fox’ sports programming, including its recent deal to buy a majority stake in the New York Yankees’ YES regional sports network. With its off-season acquisitions, including Japanese pitching ace Masahiro Tanaka, “we have a good team. I’m really excited about it after last year” when the team failed to make the post-season.