James Murdoch says Fox News did a good job in transitioning from Roger Ailes

Eriq Gardner


On Monday, 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch gave his father an "A+" in handling Fox News after the departure of Roger Ailes, saying Rupert Murdoch "rolled up his sleeves and kept the show on the road."

Speaking at the UBS 44th Annual Global Media and Communications Conference, Murdoch didn't specifically talk about the sexual harassment allegations that led to Ailes' departure last July, but he did allude to what happened by speaking how a transition had to occur quickly at the cable news network.

"I think we did a good job in acting decisively," Murdoch told investors, adding that news coverage was strong at Fox News throughout the election and that viewers have been re-introduced to new hosts like Bret Hume and Tucker Carlson. Murdoch also touted ratings, saying that since Donald Trump's victory in early November, "frankly they are less down than we expected."

Expressing a very positive if careful view about 21st Century Fox's direction, Murdoch played down the idea that his company would pursue bold acquisitions as AT&T seeks to buy Time Warner and as Viacom and CBS hold their own merger talks.

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"Let's not get too concerned with empire building, get scale for scale's sake" he said. "That's not what we are interested in. We've passed on a lot of opportunities. We want to be very disciplined... We don't feel the urge to go acquire some other large piece."

Murdoch spent most of his 45 minutes on stage hyping the opportunities in digital, saying that he's not concerned with slipping television ratings if it means that the company is attracting viewership on streaming platforms where there's a greater ability to better track audiences and deliver higher quality advertising. He predicted a coming wave of digital growth, although unlike CBS or HBO, Murdoch doesn't seem particularly ready to launch an over-the-top platform for Fox that would take its content directly to consumers. He noted the challenges in managing churn, accepting credit payments, and having a fundamentally different relationship with consumers. He also spoke of concern for too much fragmentation in the market.

Talking about how Fox has made deals with DirecTV Now and Sling as well has touting what's coming to Hulu, Murdoch added, "I still think the streaming business is something we are leaning into hard because we think it is a better business."