James Murdoch: Fox News Will Be “Strong” In 2017 Despite Tough Election Year Comps
Fox CEO James Murdoch gave Fox News a post-election vote of confidence, calling its prospects for 2017 “strong,” at an investor gathering today.
Although news ratings have dropped since the election, and “are likely to be harder” in 2017, rivals CNN and MSNBC “dropped down more than we have in the aftermath,” he told the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference.
The company was “decisive and did what we needed to do” after on-air personality Gretchen Carlson and others charged Fox News founder Roger Ailes with sexual harassment. With his departure “it’s going really well. I’m very pleased with it…We feel pretty good” with growing visibility for network stars including Chris Wallace.
Murdoch assured investors that he doesn’t “feel an urge to acquire another large piece” even as AT&T prepares to buy Time Warner and Viacom looks to merge with CBS. His view is “let’s not get too concerned about empire building and getting scale for scale’s sake.”
He’s enthusiastic about digital streaming for TV and movies. “There’s an opportunity to understand your customer better,” and then sell targeted ads, he says.
Consumers also can determine the value of their time, for example by electing to watch an ad as opposed to paying for programming. “The opportunity in advertising beyond filling breaks with 30-second spots is enormous.”
Fox has the capability to offer a direct-to-consumer product similar to CBS All Access and HBO Now, but he’d prefer to continue to work with bundlers including Sling TV, DirecTV Now, and a planned service from Hulu — which his company co-owns.
“It’s super hard managing churn,” Murdoch says. “We have to be a little careful that we don’t fragment the business too much.”
Meanwhile Murdoch says that he expects affiliate revenues for many of Fox’s channels to accelerate as it sorts out rights with cable and satellite distributors.