Fox Animation Network Better Than "The Simpsons" 24/7
Worse, he used to be one of them. But, like new NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, this is the business he's chosen.
A few years ago as head of DirecTV, Carey was resistant to paying cable networks and local stations huge carriage fees. Now, having switched over to the programming side -- Burke made the flip from a top role at Comcast cable -- he's asking for big money of his former sector-mates.
It was kind of fun to watch Carey justify his about-face in a Senate hearing, though he handled it with characteristic calm and offered up a just doing my job sir.
So, with News Corp.'s Fox News having "a uniquely passionate following," Carey wants more money to offer Bill O'Reilly nightly.
At the Fox broadcast network, which is delivering big numbers with "American Idol" and the NFL, Carey says it "should have a financial story, not just an audience profile, (which) reflects the value of that business."
That profitability metric ain't coming from advertising, even in a soaring market, but retransmission consent payments from operators to carry Fox-owned stations and the network's affiliates.
So, operators from AT&T to Time Warner Cable aren't likely to embrace any News Corp. efforts to launch another cable network to add to its fleet with FX, National Geographic Channel and regional sports networks.
Forget News Corp., operators don't really want any more cable networks at all, providing another challenge.
Yet, Carey is making some noise about a new programming initiative based on "The Simpsons," which is moving into its 23rd season after hundreds of episodes. After setting off some buzz last week, he wavered and dodged Wednesday about whether there could be a "Simpsons" dedicated network, but reiterated the franchise offers a slew of options in a content-hungry world.
"It's a real opportunity for us to do something truly unique," he said, adding it's "a unique franchise unlike anything else out there."
And with Fox owning it, Carey indicated there's more money to be made with a new strategy that generates more value than signing more traditional syndication deals. That could bring VOD channels or online-only offerings, but those approaches haven't really proven to be financial boons on their own.
Linear TV still needs to be an anchor. Could "The Simpsons" carry a network alone? Maybe. But why go with that alone when a stronger option is available?
News Corp. has an opening to launch a Fox Animation network using its string of animation hits. The value of animation with its young male audience seems to be gaining in popularity.
Fox has rights to not just "The Simpsons," but "Family Guy, "American Dad," "The Cleveland Show" and "Futurama." Maybe the new "Allen Gregory" will become another hit this fall.
Fox could let distribution deals lapse with Adult Swim and TBS and broadcast ones with station groups, then grab sole re-run rights for Fox Animation (also the name of a News Corp. production studio).
Save the Fox network, if the new cable outlet were the only place to find the shows on TV, it might be tough for operators to resist carrying it and advertiser appeal should be significant. Exclusive content has never been more valuable.
Fox could further boost the network's worth by over time pulling episodes off all online outlets such as Fox.com and Hulu. Digital distribution could be limited only to those who pay for TV service, making operators happy.
Meanwhile, with the animation hits providing instant viability, a Fox Animation network could gradually launch some original shows. And even move away from animation with live-action comedies, while searching for personalities to carry series akin to Comedy Central's "Tosh.0" and late-night hits.
Of course, then the network might have to be called Fox Comedy.