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.”
Carey was much more at ease discussing the growing value of News Corp’s video content. He continues to talk — playfully, it seems — about the possibility of launching a cable channel for The Simpsons once the first round of syndication deals expires. “It’s a unique franchise,” he says. “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.” News Corp plans to ask cable operators to pay higher fees for channels including Fox News and Nat Geo; the company is still catching up to the rates other companies command, in part because “we were pretty late among the major media companies into the cable business.” Profit margins at Fox Broadcasting “are going to be improving dramatically” as the network and its stations receive in retransmission consent deals with pay TV providers. That’s “not a one-time event” he says, adding that Fox attracts “our biggest audience and biggest events.”
There was no mention of the Hulu auction — but Carey says News Corp is eager to expand the opportunities for broadband subscribers to access Fox content. While cable and satellite owners try to create walled gardens with their TV Everywhere initiatives, “technology’s going to find a way to run over (those) walls,” he says. He admits to being “frustrated” by the time it’s taken for companies to join Netflix in digital streaming and says Google, Apple and Amazon soon will “get more aggressive.”
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