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“Star India will prove to be a game changer for us”: James Murdoch

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CANNES: 21st Century Fox co-chief operating officer James Murdoch has lots of hopes from Star India. During his keynote on day one of the ongoing MIPCOM 2014, he said, “If we continue to innovate and lead in India, it will prove to be a game changer for us. It is the number one network in India.” He further stressed that the India business is really doing well for them and so was Sky in the UK.

Murdoch believes in giving freedom and creating a company which backs talent. “At 21st Century Fox, we aspire to be one of the biggest homes for creativity and storytelling. We want to be a place where we can attract some of the best talent and encourage them to take risks, when they can’t take it anywhere else,” stressed Murdoch.

21st Century Fox which is in different businesses, right from television to movies to cable and satellite, believes that the main business at the end of the day is of digital video and about story telling. “A lot of barriers in different lines of our business is breaking down. The challenges in terms of strategies and customer behaviour is similar from place to place and business to business,” he added.

The biggest media giant believes in giving its executives and talent the freedom to think and create. “The culture that we are creating is that right from Mumbai to LA, the executives should have the confidence for risk taking and do great story telling,” he said. The company believes in empowering people to do great business.

Murdoch laid a lot of emphasis on taking risks. “Larger companies have the ability to take risks. We learn lessons along the way. As a company we have made investments in challenging businesses. We are trying to create a culture where people understand that it is better to take risks, even if you get it wrong, at least you have tried. Great successes come from great risks. We have a culture where we do not get traumatised with failures.  We want to be a place where people feel that they can be backed,” he announced.

He feels that all of Fox’s business is of risk. “Investing in original programming is the biggest risk we take, as investing in original programming means delaying some profits for the company,” he said while giving example of Simpsons, which they made and then acquired for cable syndication in the US. “When we took the step, we didn’t know how customers would react to it.”

“These are the sort of risks one needs to take. I love the moment in the business when you say, ‘Holy Cow, we did it!’” he stressed.

The son of media baron Rupert Murdoch, also spoke about the Shine and Endemol joint venture. “We saw opportunity in merging with Endemol. This is a business which will benefit from scale, breadth and diversity of creativity. Both Shine and Endemol have a great future.”

Murdoch feels that in a creative business, one cannot over-synergise. “You have to allow people to run their own show.”

According to Murdoch, consolidation in infrastructure business of cable and television has begun. “The upstream business will see further consolidation. People will seek to invest more in programming, because they see value in it,” he said.

He also touched upon the most talked about collaboration between Time Warner Cable and 21st Century Fox, which did not take place.  “We had thought that the combination could be exciting. It was an opportunity at a moment in time. Given the nature of these things, we didn’t want to get into things like hostile takeovers and so moved out.”

The company will soon be completing the merger of its three Sky businesses in Europe: UK, Germany and Italy. So why merge the three, he said, “Each one of them in their lifecycle has done really well. There are a lot of common things they do. We feel that together there is a huge opportunity to accelerate the business. Also with this they can create great stories. In Europe there is great opportunity for studio business.”

According to Murdoch, consumers like bundling, because that drives down prices and consumption up. “People will bundle things in different ways and the stack will be re-ordered. Subscription TV is alive and kicking, and it is changing, driven by competition,” he said.

He is happy when customers surprise him. “We need to create authenticity in the content. Customers are being better served today.”

He concluded by saying, “TV industry has been very progressive and we need to be pacesetter.”

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