Hulu’s technology types are “very, very focused” on making sure that its upcoming live streaming service won’t suffer from some of the technical snafus that have irked some DirecTV Now subscribers, Fox CEO James Murdoch told analysts today.
“We’ve seen really good progress in terms of our ability to stream concurrent streams of live sports,” he said in Fox’s quarterly call with analysts to discuss earnings for the last three months of 2016.
He acknowledges that “you never rule out” problems, and “some of these problems with streaming are non-trivial.”
Still, “we have a high degree of confidence in the Hulu platform,” Murdoch said. “Some of the things you’ve seen over the last number of months are normal for these services. And certainly we expect those kinks to be worked out. It’s not an easy technical challenge, but it’s one that’s surmountable.”
The CEO talked up digital opportunities generally, saying that Fox is making “great strides” to adjust to “the beginning of a great transformation of the business.”
Several companies have gotten into live streaming, including Sling TV and DirecTV Now, but “that proliferation will be a positive for the business and reverse some of the declines” programmers have seen in pay TV. “
He adds that it’s still “early days,” with no one having the power to block entrants from competing.
Hulu will unveil pricing plans soon, Murdoch said. And it’s “a challenging art. The question is: How do you make the differentiation between the tiers worthwhile … so it doesn’t just become in-or-out of the service?”
Although most of the questions involved Fox’s and Hulu’s digital plans, Murdoch urged analysts to look at reservoirs of strength in traditional TV.
Fox is especially eager to promote sports, a topic on many people’s minds after the company saw ratings for its regular season NFL games decline slightly. The post season games were “strong,” he said.
What’s more, sports are “emblematic of our broader strategy around big brands and making investments in the programming that matters most for our customers,” he said.
Murdoch said that Fox probably would not look to buy additional TV stations if the FCC raises the ceiling on the reach of the outlets a company can own.
“You can rest easy there,” Murdoch said. “We like the shape of our station business right now. While there are always affiliation swaps or other bits and pieces around the edges, we don’t have a big appetite for adding much to that.”