Fox Corp.’s non-production employees will continue to work remotely at least through year end as COVID-19 cases spike and the company explores more flexible longer-term arrangments, said CEO Lachlan Murdoch.
“The rising rates of positive cases in areas where we have a significant presence coupled with evolving restrictions and best practices around the country are impacting and postponing our planned companywide return to work efforts this fall,” he said in a note to employees Thursday. “We are nonetheless hopeful that production activities will increase substantially in the coming weeks and that more of our colleagues will be back on site and engaged in delivering world class news, sports and entertainment content for our audiences.”
Murdoch said non-production employees who have been working remotely will continue to do so for the remainder of the calendar year. “Learnings from the past several months will influence our long-term thinking about how we operate and the flexibility we can offer. We are evaluating several longer-term work arrangements and will have more to share as our plans progress.”
Fox also said it will continue to cover medical insurance premiums for employees enrolled in Fox-sponsored plans beyond the end of September, through December. In March, Fox announced it would cover employee premium payments for six months to help staffers deal with the economic hit of COVID-19.
The company that owns powerhouse Fox News, Fox Sports, Fox Entertainment and the Fox Television Stations reported a sharp drop in ad sales in the June quarter from the one on a coronavirus-related economic stall.
Several months ago when I first wrote to you about COVID-19, we all hoped that the duration and severity of the pandemic’s impact would be far less substantial than what we have experienced so far. Many of you have been touched personally by coronavirus, and our thoughts are with you and your families.
Notwithstanding the personal challenges we face and professional reimagining that we continue to undertake, your groups have collaborated to ensure that FOX continues to serve our viewers, partners and other stakeholders.
Earlier this week we announced our fiscal year 2020 financial and operating results. Our first full fiscal year as Fox Corporation was momentous, highlighted by milestones from across our businesses:
The FOX Network staged a dramatic comeback, leapfrogging our competitors to regain the number one broadcast network title for the first time in eight years. The unmistakable power of live sports combined with top entertainment programs made FOX the only network to deliver year-over-year ratings gains during the 2019-20 television season.
FOX also claimed the #1 spot this season in entertainment-only programming, propelled by The Masked Singer, the 2019-2020 TV season’s #1 entertainment series; the season’s top new entertainment program, Lego Masters; and 9-1-1: Lone Star, the season’s #1 new scripted show.
This year FOX Sports broadcast both a historic, seven game MLB World Series and an exciting Super Bowl LIV, which was watched by over 100 million people. More recently, the FOX Sports team has invented new technologies to not only produce but enhance the games being played today in ways we didn’t think possible just a few months ago.
More than ever this year, our audiences turned to us for the best in national and local news. FOX News, which ended fiscal year 2020 with record-breaking viewership, was also the leading primetime network in all of television among total viewers in June, marking the first cable network to ever lead all broadcast networks in ratings for an entire month.
Similarly, our local FOX Television Stations increased their news productions and created special town halls to ensure viewers have the information most relevant to their cities and towns. In the fourth quarter of the fiscal year, our Stations experienced a 40% increase in viewership year-over-year.
Three newer additions to our company also performed strongly. Advertising-supported streaming platform Tubi has seen phenomenal growth since we acquired it in April. Credible Labs was a key part of the FOX Business brand refresh and is now in the early stages of integrating alongside our national and local news assets. And Bento Box is also producing 11 new animated shows.
These successes are due to you—I am deeply grateful for your contributions and appreciative of the work you do even during these challenging times.
While we understand the desire to return to our pre-coronavirus “normal” and see our friends and colleagues in person, our approach to fully reopening facilities is guided by your health and safety. The rising rates of positive cases in areas where we have a significant presence coupled with evolving restrictions and best practices around the country are impacting and postponing our planned companywide return to work efforts this fall. We are nonetheless hopeful that production activities will increase substantially in the coming weeks and that more of our colleagues will be back on site and engaged in delivering world class news, sports and entertainment content for our audiences.
In the near-term, we want to maintain a low density in our offices for those employees whose jobs do require them to be on site. We also want to provide additional clarity to everyone, allowing you to plan for your own childcare, eldercare and other personal considerations. While the needs of each business will vary over the next five months, we currently expect that those non-production employees who have been working remotely will continue to do so for the remainder of the calendar year.
For the many employees who have been reporting to their work locations without interruption, we remain committed to ensuring a safe environment for you. We instituted protocols mandating social distancing and face coverings at all FOX facilities, and we increased sanitizing frequency and cleaning product availability. We will soon be introducing additional screenings and processes designed to keep you protected.
We understand that during this time the FOX healthcare program is of particular importance, and I am pleased to inform you that we will be extending our coverage of medical insurance premiums for employees enrolled in the FOX-sponsored plans through the end of the calendar year. This means that the premium payment that you make through your normal pay cycle process will be suspended not just through September as we initially announced but through December 2020. FOX will make those medical insurance premium payments on your behalf. We are also extending through the end of the year coverage of any employee-paid portion of medical insurance premiums for our full-time staff union employees who receive medical coverage through union medical plans. We hope that this additional benefit can ease even a small amount of concern and pressure the pandemic has caused.
Lastly, our teams have proven how successfully we can work together remotely. We have innovated new ways to interact and partner in a virtual environment. Learnings from the past several months will influence our long-term thinking about how we operate and the flexibility we can offer. We are evaluating several longer-term work arrangements and will have more to share as our plans progress.
You do so much for the company, and we will continue to seek opportunities to assist you and your loved ones during this difficult time.