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Murdoch to ’empower’ merged prodcos

MIPCOM: James Murdoch, 21st Century Fox’s co-chief operating officer, has said creating a culture of local “empowerment” amongst its businesses will be the key to success in an era of super-consolidation.

James Murdoch

James Murdoch

Murdoch, who is responsible for the group’s TV interests, such as Fox Networks Group in the US and BSkyB in the UK, was speaking days after confirmation of the Endemol, Shine Group and Core Media mega-merger.

Murdoch told delegates at a packed Media Mastermind keynote address here in Cannes that the new firm would benefit from greater scale, resulting in more programming that is “better and produced faster.”

But he added that he wanted 21st Century Fox’s businesses to be allowed to “run their own shop” with a culture that would allow them to innovate quickly.

Details of the new-look operation are still to be revealed by 21st Century Fox, Shine’s parent, and Apollo Global Management, owner of Endemol and Core, but the business will house some of the biggest TV brands on the planet, including Big Brother, MasterChef and American Idol.

The deal will create by far the biggest production outfit in international television, with 21st Century Fox and Apollo each owning 50% of the joint venture. Murdoch said he wanted it to “be largely independent to pursue the content they know how to pursue for their brands, customers and colleagues.”

“TV is a business that can benefit from scale, breadth and diversity and we think Shine and Endemol coming together is very attractive,” he added.

The new superindie will be headed by Sophie Turner Laing, former MD of content at UK satcaster BSkyB, and will have operations in 30 markets and a catalogue of more than 600 scripted and unscripted formats.

Shine CEO Alex Mahon and Endemol CEO Just Spee will both be leaving their companies in 2015 after an “extended period” of transition with Turner Laing.

Murdoch also highlighted the potential benefits of scale from Sky Europe after BSkyB, which is part-owned by 21st Century Fox, recently agreed a deal to buy its sibling broadcasters in Germany and Italy.

He said that 21st Century Fox management had to ensure they did not “over-engineer the scale of it” but ensure through distribution and other commercial decisions that improved services would be created.

James Murdoch’s sister, Elisabeth, is also standing down as non-executive chairman of Shine Group, the production outfit she founded 14 years ago and sold to her father Rupert’s 21st Century Fox for £415m (US$673m) in 2011.

Murdoch also discussed the ultimately failed merger of 21st Century Fox and Time Warner, which he said had been an “opportunistic” play, adding that his company had moved on because it did not want to attempt a hostile takeover.

He also admitted that the firm’s investment in social media company MySpace had been “a total write-off and a disaster,” but added that such risks were an inherent aspect of the company’s business.

Murdoch also hit out at search engines such as Google, arguing that governments and regulators needed to do more to limit the links provided to pirated content.

“Google’s not right saying that it is doing more about piracy than anyone,” he said. “The problem with Google and other search-driven discovery services is that if the content is there and illegal and you’re selling clicks, you have every incentive for that content to be there.”


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