Murdoch: News Corp. Can Weather Downturn, 'High' On FBN

Rupert MurdochWhile acknowledging that ratings have been lackluster, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch said Friday that the company continues to have "high aspirations" for the Fox Business Network.

It's "well on its way to becoming a formidable challenger" to CNBC, Murdoch said--adding that ratings are ahead of where the Fox News Channel was at a comparable point in its history.

That would be 1997, a year after the now-popular channel launched. Fox Business Network turned a year old last week, and has seen its distribution increase to 40 million homes. At last October's launch, it was at 30 million.

At News Corp.'s annual stockholder meeting, Murdoch also said the company will break even this year--and perhaps post a small profit--on its $80 million startup investment in the Big Ten Network.

The sports channel, which focuses on the conference that includes Penn State and Michigan, launched in August 2007. It has been buoyed recently by distribution deals with large cable operators. News Corp. has a near half-stake in the network.



On the financial front, Murdoch echoed other top media executives with some dour thoughts about the economy, but remained optimistic about News Corp.'s ability to weather the difficulties. "We have prepared ourselves well for this day," he said.

He added that he has no illusions about any quick bounceback from the slowdown, saying it "may well turn into a prolonged economic downturn. We cannot fool ourselves into believing otherwise."

Going forward, he said, News Corp. will find growth by increasing subscription-based businesses; expanding in India, Eastern Europe and Asia; and building its digital assets.

He also said the company has a "war chest" of some $5 billion in cash, allowing it to make investments globally that competitors--lacking similar resources--might not do.

News Corp.'s shares have been pummeled along with its peers, trading at around $9.20 Friday, after hitting a 52-week high of $23.86.

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