Fox did not follow Disney’s lead last night in announcing new subscription streaming services for its content.
But CEO James Murdoch told analysts today that he’s “very open minded about an independently priced, direct to consumer offering and we’re certainly mindful of what we see in the marketplace and how these things are progressing for other firms out there.”
For now he remains open to having Fox content run on multiple platforms — especially traditional pay TV. Still, he acknowledges that the TV market is “becoming more competitive, and that’s driving innovation in terms of customer experience and packaging innovation with some narrow bundles and some wider ones. We have really been focusing on customer experience, how we build these products and license our content and brands into third party products.”
Responding to a question, Murdoch says he’s “very, very focused” on several TV network affiliation deals coming up for renewal, calling them a “big opportunity for us.”
But he declined to comment on reports that he’s considering a major shift to Ion Media outlets from Sinclair Broadcast ones, including after the leading station group buys Tribune Media. Murdoch says he “can’t comment on any speculation about hypothetical corporate activity.”
He was a less skittish about predicting what will happen with Fox’s $14.6 billion offer to acquire the 61% of Sky which it does not already own. Murdoch says that he’s still “confident” that UK officials will approve it, but it’s “more likely in the first half of 2018 than before the end of this calendar year.”
The company predicts continued revenue growth at its cable networks in the fiscal year that began last month. They’ll rise by a high single digit percentage every quarter, mostly due to what it calls “locked in” affiliation deals with distributors.
The TV business may look more wobbly without the Super Bowl, with one less NFL divisional playoff, no airwave spectrum sales and — it says — with no expectation that the World Series will once again last seven games with the drama that resulted in last year’s finale with the Chicago Cubs winning in the 10th inning.
During the call, James and Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch released a cheerleading memo to staff that appears to take a gentle swipe at the culture at Fox News that resulted in multiple sexual harassment charges and dismissals.
“Moving forward we aspire to put an ever greater focus on embracing our differences, listening to each other and celebrating the huge swath of diversity that is 21CF,” they say. “We are committed to being an organization where anyone, from anywhere, feels welcome and can thrive.”