News Corp Nixes 'Simpson' Channel, Big Hopes For FX
News Corp. COO Chase Carey said the company has "no immediate plans" for a "Simpsons" cable channel, despite reports to the contrary, which he attributed to the need of daily newspapers to fill space.
But Carey didn't rule out a possible channel dedicated to "Simpsons" content, either. "There are a lot of 'Simpsons' fans out there," he noted, indicating that the company is considering what to do with the series library after the current syndication cycle runs its course.
"We think there is a bigger opportunity than just a second syndication cycle," he said. "We have an opportunity to do something truly unique."
Carey, speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference, took a second swipe at the press when the subject of the cell phone hacking scandal came up. He said the media coverage "at times has been surreal around it."
The company was "cooperating fully" with the governmental investigations looking into the scandal both in the UK and the U.S., he said, where questions have been raised as to whether the hacking of phones of any 911 victims occurred. "We're cooperating fully and I'm confident that the truth will come out." Appropriate steps will be taken once the investigations are complete, he said.
Back in July when the scandal erupted, the company shut down its News of the World tabloid, withdrew its BSkyB pay-TV bid and put new management in charge of UK operations. The company, he said, "is taking a fresh look" at how to move forward with its UK business given all the recent turmoil.
Carey adds that the new game plan did not include revisiting a bid for BSkyB. "We're focused on going forward, assuming we won't buy it," he said.
Asked about online content strategy, Carey said the company favors the "authentication" model, where subscribers should be able to access content they are paying for across an array of devices. That makes customers happy, while serving business needs at the same time. He cited HBO Go as one of the better authentication models.
Big digital companies like Apple, Amazon and Google would also become "more aggressive" in offering online packages of content to compete with the Hulus and Netflixes of the world, he said. The question for News Corp. is "how they co-exist with our existing businesses" if News Corp. licenses content rights to them.
On the cable front, Carey said the company has great expectations for FX -- claiming it has the revenue and profit potential of a TNT or a USA, although it's not there yet. But recent moves, like adding off-network sitcoms and college football to its schedule, are designed to help it get there. "We think we can give it more reach and broaden it without losing its strength and identity," he said.
Carey also reaffirmed that the company believes it can more than double the operating profit on its international TV operations from the current $500 million. Many of those operations have both subscriber fees and advertising. Some are in emerging markets, "so we'll benefit from just the growth of the markets," in addition to whatever business strategy the company implements.