UBS Media Conference: Complete Coverage
News Corp. chief operating officer Chase Carey hinted that his firm, and rival media companies, may be looking to shed minor cable channels or at least put much less effort behind them. Speaking at the UBS media conference on Dec. 7, Carey said News Corp.’s thinking was “less towards how may channels can I add to mix, to how to move from quantity to quality.”
“Where are your great tent pole franchises and how do you get rewarded for them: you’ll have that shift going on,” he said. “Many content guys have multiple channels. They largely have to exist under their own weight and have value.”
A move by big media companies to slim down on their smaller channels is likely being driven by a change in the terms of the retransmission consent debate. That negotiation is now about how much cash content providers can get for their major networks rather than how many cents owners can get for niche channels with miniscule ratings. In previous years, content providers would ask distributors to launch new channels or buy ad time as part of their retrans deals.
That quid pro quo may now be part of TV history as retrans becomes more about securing big money for network shows. “Retrans has to get focused on the core value,” Carey says. “We have to ask what do they represent to a customer and again it’s less, ‘How do I grab more real estate.’”
Carey’s comments come as News Corp. continues to talk to potential buyers about its Fuel TV cable channel, for which Viacom continues to be a potential buyer.
Separately, Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav, due to speak at the annual UBS media conference December 8, has said he is reviewing future plans for some of the company’s smaller services such as the Military Channel. The company has already tried to retool other smaller services, with Discovery Health being transformed into lifestyle service OWN, a joint venture with Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions, and Discovery Kids now part of a joint venture with toy maker Hasbro.
News Corp’s Carey went on to repeat his call for Fox network to gain its fair share of retrans cash which he added would be shared with affiliates, though each deal would be on a case by case basis. “We are looking to go at it together,” he said, adding: “It’s not a one size fits all.”
When asked if News Corp. would pull the signal if it didn’t get what it wants from distributors, Carey responded: “They’re not buying it to get pretty set top boxes. They’re buying it for content on the screen and they’ll be pretty upset if they don’t have it.”
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