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11 December 2023

Content is not just king but emperor of all things electronic: Murdoch

Avatar and other box-office hits helped boost News Corp's operating income in the film division to $324m, up from $112m a year ago. (REUTERS)

Buoyed by a box-office hit in Avatar and better-than-expected profits, News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch predicted a rosy future yesterday for content companies such as his media and entertainment giant.

“The debate over the primacy of content is over,” Murdoch told analysts after News Corp reported a $254 million (Dh9.32m) second-quarter net profit compared with a $6.4 billion loss in the same quarter a year ago.

“The value of content is now clear,” said Murdoch, whose holdings include

the Fox television networks, Avatar-maker 20th Century Fox, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and newspapers in Australia and Britain.

“Content is not just king. It is the emperor of all things electronic,” the News Corp chairman and chief executive said.

Declaring News Corp “the world’s preeminent content company”, Murdoch said “devices and platforms are proliferating”.

“But this clever technology is merely an empty vessel without any great content,” he said. “Without content, the ever larger and flatter screens, the tablets, the e-readers and the increasingly sophisticated mobile phones would be lifeless.”

Murdoch repeated plans to begin charging online readers of his newspapers. The Wall Street Journal is currently the only major newspaper in the News Corp stable to charge readers a subscription fee.

“We expect to expand to other titles in the coming months,” said Murdoch. “We’ll be charging for online wherever we have publications.”

News Corp, he added, is also holding “a very substantive conversation with device makers on developing a subscription model that will provide high-quality journalism to consumers whenever and wherever they want it”.

An outspoken critic of Amazon’s Kindle, Murdoch said News Corp – owner of book publisher Harper-Collins – had entered into an agreement with Apple, which unveiled its “iPad” tablet computer last week.

Murdoch said the deal with Apple would allow for higher prices for e-books than the $9.99 Amazon charges for bestsellers and hardcover releases.

Murdoch also said there have been “very early” talks with director James Cameron about making a sequel to Avatar and said the film will be released “as soon as possible” on DVD although the DVD version will not be in 3-D.

Murdoch’s exuberance was boosted by second-quarter earnings per share of 25 cents, better than the 20 cents expected by Wall Streets analysts.

Revenue during the three months to December 31 also blew past the forecasts, rising 10 per cent to $8.7bn. Analysts had predicted $8.23bn. 

By sector, newspapers saw operating income grow 30 per cent to $259m on increased advertising revenue at The Wall Street Journal and lower operating expenses across the newspaper division.

Avatar, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and other box-office hits helped boost operating income in the film division to $324m, up from $112m a year ago. Operating income for the broadcast television segment rose to $29m while cable networks improved to $604m.


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