Fox CEO James Murdoch was barraged with questions about the topic of the day — Hulu’s planned live streaming service — in his quarterly earnings call with analysts. He confirmed that his company is an “early licensee” helping to promote the planned skinny bundle offering that he described as “a reimagined digital video service.”
Fox wants to “make our programming more available, not less,” he says.
He believes the upcoming service, along with others including Sling TV, “will support growth in the overall universe” — and not necessarily promote cord cutting from conventional pay TV. To that end, he says, Fox will allow cable and satellite companies to develop similar bundles that include what he described as just the company’s “core” channels.
Streaming is a better model, he says. Fox can collect the same or higher affiliate fees for its channels. Prices might rise over time, much as they do for cable and satellite distributors.
“We’re focused on getting a fair price for each of our brands, and all of our brands in aggregate. And streaming is a net positive for our overall set of brands.”
The programmer also has more control over ad loads and pricing, and can offer new forms of targeted promotions. He likened it to what Fox is seeing at its FXNow streaming service “We’re totally convinced it’s a better ad experience for customers and for advertisers,” Murdoch says.
Last year Fox acquired TrueX Media, a firm that offers online viewers opportunities to determine how and when they see ads.
Fox is most interested in the user interface, leaving it to the platform providers to deal with most of the technology matters.
Fox’s plans for Hulu — which it co-owns with Disney and Comcast — will involve all of the programmer’s main services including the regional sports networks, which Murdoch calls “a huge driver.”
It “obviously drives big audiences in linear and live viewing,” he says. “But when you look around the world sports is driving over-the-top consumption as well.”
Last month Fox agreed to license several local stations, Fox Sports, FX, NatGeo and in-market sports from Fox’s regional networks to Sling TV’s new multi-stream service.
Like all of the other Big Media chiefs, Murdoch says he’s “excited” about the upcoming upfront ad sales season. “All of the networks are in good shape creatively, and scatter pricing is strong. So it’s a great moment to go right into upfronts.”