Murdoch: No Need for ‘Empire Building’

Despite possible changing regulatory sentiment around AT&T’s $108.7 billion deal to purchase Time Warner Inc., 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch told an industry audience Monday that he has no plans to chase big transactions.

“Let’s not get too concerned about empire building and getting scale for scale’s sake,” Murdoch said at the UBS Global Media and Entertainment conference in New York Monday.

Murdoch added that while ratings have been declining for news networks this year and that is likely to continue in 2017, he believes Fox News is well positioned.

Murdoch also addressed the controversy surrounding former on-air personality Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment suit against Roger Ailes, which resulted in Ailes’ resignation as head of Fox News and 21st Century Fox TV stations. Other former and current female Fox personalities have voiced similar experiences at the network with Ailes.

At the UBS conference, Murdoch said that the company took swift action once the accusations were brought to light.

“The company was decisive and did what we needed to do,” Murdoch said. He added that in the wake of Ailes’ departure, the network is “going really well. I’m pleased with it.”

A long-time proponent of digital media and streaming opportunities, Murdoch said here is huge potential in digital video for Fox.

“The streaming business is much, much better,” Murdoch said. “It’s much more fluid. There’s an opportunity to understand your customer better.”

Although there are greater monetization opportunities through targeted and advanced ads with streaming, Murdoch added that Fox won’t go direct-to-consumer with its networks like rival CBS has with its CBS All Access product, preferring to work with distributors like Sling TV, DirecTV Now and an upcoming streaming service from Hulu slated for next year.  Fox is a part owner of Hulu along with The Walt Disney Co., Time Warner Inc., and Comcast’s NBC Universal.

“Your customer has different expectations of you at some point when they’ve given you their credit card,” Murdoch said. “We have to be a little bit careful that we don’t fragment the business too much.”