James Murdoch Pledges More "Consistent" Quality for Fox Film Franchises

The Hollywood Reporter

Digital platforms like Hulu are taking customers from the traditional providers of cable TV and "that's a huge positive," 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch said Wednesday.

Sure, 21st Century Fox owns Hulu, along with Disney, NBCUniversal and Time Warner, but Murdoch said it's great that Hulu's competitors also are wreaking havoc on MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributors) because the company his father built licenses to most of them on a nonexclusive basis.

His philosophy, he said, is to make 21st Century Fox content "more available, not less." Old business models need to be "knocked down," Murdoch said at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference 2016 in New York.

There's an "explosion of competition" for MVPDs because they haven't done a good enough job providing an affordable and superior TV-watching experience, he said.

That being said, Murdoch likes Hulu because, "We're not going to wait for a lot of people to do this," he said. 

"We want to see more of this downstream competition. … The universe can absolutely grow," he said of those that compete with Hulu. "We're very comfortable with multiple competitors."

Murdoch added that Hulu is "the most attractive place for digital advertising," and that the unprofitable asset "won't lose money forever."

"The shareholders are super-excited to invest in this platform," he said, drawing chuckles from the audience of Wall Street analysts.

On the film side, Murdoch referenced underperformers like the latest Independence Day and Ice Age movies, and said: "I acknowledge that failure is where we are."

He said he's happy the film studio has avoided "massive losses," but said, "fundamentally, we have to make better movies," hence Stacey Snider was named studio head in June.

Murdoch promised the studio would be "more consistent, creatively," and touted upcoming movies from the Planet of the Apes, Avatar and Kingsman franchises, as well as Hidden Figures, due in January.

The CEO is constantly asked to address the upheaval at Fox News that began with anchor Gretchen Carlson accusing Roger Ailes of sexual misconduct and ended with him stepping down as FNC's boss.

He addressed the situation only briefly Wednesday, saying that the nation's top provider of cable news is "bigger than any one person."

Since then, Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy have been named co-presidents and Rupert Murdoch was made executive chairman, along with remaining executive chairman of the parent company.

"When you have a difficult situation like that, a personnel situation that was really troubling, the important thing to do is be totally transparent and move quickly," the younger Murdoch said Wednesday.