UPDATE, 3:10 PM: So much for the speculation that the new News Corp — the publishing company that News Corp is about to spin off — will pounce on some papers that Tribune wants to sell, including the Los Angeles Times. Well, at least for now. Rupert Murdoch told investors and analysts today that U.S. rules designed to bar a company from owning a newspaper and TV station in the same market make a newspaper acquisition here “unlikely.” That’s sure to comfort investors who fear that Murdoch will use the new company to make deals that they’ll hate, like his $5B purchase of Dow Jones in 2007. Many investors still believe that newspaper values haven’t hit bottom. But today’s comment leaves room for him to change direction. The FCC is considering changes in media ownership rules that would make it easier to cross-own newspaper and TV properties in a city.
Murdoch also indicated that he plans to raise The Wall Street Journal’s subscription rates, and could indirectly funnel some cash to investors. He noted that the Journal charges about $44 a month while its rival, The New York Times, charges more than $50. “There’s a dramatic difference in price,” he said adding later that “we’re looking to our readers to pay a heavier load.” What about advertising? “We’re being very realistic” by not forecasting a big increase in spending on print, he said. But execs noted that the new company plans to pay a dividend, and will set aside $500M to repurchase shares if they believe the stock is undervalued. “Ideally we’ll hold on to that money for other forms of expansion,” he says. (more…)