Points to Fox co-COO James Murdoch for at least noting that there’s a lack of transparency about succession plans throughout Big Media — even as he sidestepped a question about the situation at his company. Who-will-follow-Rupert has become “a big parlor game” he told investors at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference. So what’s the answer? “We have a broad and deep management team…Ultimately it will be for the board to decide.” While that’s unsatisfying for investors, he added that “I’ll put our team and clear indication about succession against any other [Big Media] company.”
More broadly, he noted that cable operators fumbled the opportunity to make traditional TV a major force in U.S. digital streaming — but content owners can help catch up. The pay TV platform “has not been creating best products for customers,” he says. That should change, though, as programmers stream directly to viewers through digital services such as Hulu or TV Everywhere platforms. They can “create a customer experience that is really special.” And it should succeed because “the real killer app in digital is TV” scripted entertainment and sports.
Asked directly about Hulu, he says that Fox — which co-owns the streaming service with Disney and Comcast — considers it “an exciting business that becomes more exciting” as digital media grow. “We think it could do better in terms of ad innovation and targeting…but fundamentally we’re pretty happy with it.”
Murdoch acknowledged that the Fox broadcast network has “ratings challenges. For us that’s the primary issue.” But he doesn’t believe that the recent weakness in industry ad sales comes from a new and growing migration of dollars to digital media. “I don’t think we’ve seen a shift,” he says. “I think they’re spending less.” He added that Fox has issues with Nielsen and Rentrak’s audience measurements. More fundamentally, though, “we need to create better products.”
He added that he’s pleased with Fox’s movie studio. “I know there’s a lot of talk – the film business isn’t growing. But we like the film business.” It was encouraging that Fox succeeded with diverse films including X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Gone Girl and The Fault In Our Stars. “That’s a good thing to look at. The creative engine is functioning well.” In the future, he says, films will have to appeal to diverse audiences and not simply ride the coattails of the U.S. box office. “Our ability to drive that international distribution side is a real advantage.”