News Corporation, Ltd. is one of the world's largest media companies.
It holds interests in broadcast, satellite, and cable television,
film, newspapers, magazines, book publishers, and on-line services,
across four continents.
Corp. is headed by its primary shareholder, Rupert K. Murdoch, who
built the company from an initial base of two small Australian newspapers
in the early 1950s into a global media conglomerate. News Corp.'s
primary television properties in the United States include the FOX
Broadcasting Company (FBC) television network, the 20th Century-Fox
production studios, eight owned-and-operated FOX television stations,
and the cable network FX. In addition, it owns a controlling interest
in the United Kingdom's direct broadcast satellite television service
British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), Europe's Sky Channel television
programming service, and Asia's DBS service, Star Television. But
it is impossible to isolate any one form of media as News Corp.'s
core business, because its growth has been fueled by the idea of
creating synergies among the company's different components. The
resulting economies of scale make the value of the company's whole
greater than that of the sum of its parts. A good example of this
strategy in action was the combination of News Corp.'s purchases
in the mid-1980s of the 20th Century-Fox studios and Metromedia's
large market U.S. television stations. The combination of production
facilities and distribution outlets led directly to the creation
of the FOX television network.
FBC remains News Corp.'s most prominent presence in American television.
It launched in October 1986, with the premiere of The Late Show
Starring Joan Rivers, and began its regular schedule of prime-time
programming in early 1987. While some of its first shows, like Rivers,
were critical and commercial disappointments, FBC was slowly able
to gain audience share and expand its program schedule. FBC ultimately
carved out a solid niche as the fourth broadcast network by targeting
the 18-34 year-old audience, and attracting these viewers through
programs that were often offbeat and sometimes audacious. The
Simpsons, Married. . . With Children, and COPS were among
FBC's most prominent early hits, and exemplify the unconventional
nature of FOX network programming. Indeed, FBC's COPS and
America's Most Wanted were largely responsible for the wide
proliferation of a new television genre known as "reality television."
addition to its regular programs, FBC also made its presence felt
in the U.S. television market through a series of bold strategic
maneuvers aimed at acquiring special programming and new affiliate
stations. As early as 1987, FBC paid a record license fee to telecast
the Emmy Awards (the television industry's awards program), which
previously had rotated among the Big Three networks. The network
also attempted to obtain the rights to the National Football League's
Monday Night Football television package. Though unsuccessful
in the latter effort, FBC was later successful with its record-setting
bid for the NFL's National Conference games, wresting the package
from longtime rights holder CBS prior to the 1994 NFL season. FBC
used the opportunity created by its acquisition of this NFL package
to woo new affiliates to the network, which led to the most dramatic
realignment of network affiliates in U.S. television history. FOX's
agreement with New World Communications, announced in May 1994,
represented the largest single affiliate switch ever, but was considered
controversial because many saw the agreement--in which FOX paid
New World $500 million and 12 New World stations changed their affiliations
to FBC--as a vehicle by which FOX was able to circumvent FCC limitations
on the number of stations a single company is permitted to own.
News Corp. property vitally important to the U.S. television industry
is TV Guide, the largest selling weekly magazine in America.
News Corp. purchased TV Guide, along with Seventeen
and The Daily Racing Form, in 1988 from Walter Annenberg
for a reported price of more than $3 billion. It was News Corp.'s
largest single purchase to that time, and represents another instance
of the company's willingness to pay a premium price for a unique
media property that fits into a synergistic global scheme. News
Corp.'s plans to develop an interactive, on-screen version of TV
Guide in a joint venture with cable television industry giant
TeleCommunications, Inc., is another demonstration of the company's
desire to fully exploit and build upon the potential of the assets
it holds. News Corp.'s involvement with DBS service in Europe put
the company at great financial risk, but appears to have been a
wise long-term investment.
Corp. initially launched a DBS service called Sky Television in
1989, which competed in the United Kingdom with another DBS service,
British Satellite Broadcasting. In 1990 the two merged, with News
Corp. assuming control. The start-up costs associated with this
venture put great strain on News Corp.'s financial stability, and
the losses it encountered in BSkyB's early days, combined with the
overwhelming short-term debt load News Corp. had accumulated from
its years of aggressive acquisitions, nearly forced the company
into financial ruin in 1990. However, News Corp. was able to negotiate
with its creditors for more favorable debt terms, and thereby averted
disaster. The emergence of BSkyB in the early 1990s as an extremely
profitable venture, along with the growing success of FBC in the
United States, helped News Corp. back to financial health in a relatively
News Corp. stands among the foremost media companies in the world,
and continues to be aggressive in its pursuit of new media and communications
properties. Its wide range of media holdings in many countries of
the world puts News Corp. in a central position among a handful
of corporate behemoths that could dominate the global media landscape
for many years to come.
Alex Ben. Outfoxed. New York: St. Martin's, 1990.
Roger. "Rupert Murdoch's Biggest Gamble." New York Times,
21 October 1990.
Geraldine. "News Corp. Posts Profit in Contrast to '91 Loss." New
York Times, 27 August 1992.
____________________. "Investors Are Attracted by the News Corporation's
Big Picture." New York Times, 3 September 1993.
Farhi, Paul. "Murdoch, All Business: The Media Mogul Keeps Making
Bets Amid Strains in His Global Empire." Washington Post,
12 February 1995.
Barney. "Murdoch's Time Of Reckoning." New York Times, 20
John, and Sally Malcolm-Smith. "The World According to Murdoch:
Empire Without Frontiers." Sunday Telegraph (London), 5 September
Kiernan, Thomas. Citizen Murdoch. New York: Dodd, Mead &
Richard I., and Gwen Kinkead. "Rupert Murdoch's Motley Empire."
Fortune (Chicago), 20 February 1984.
Michael. Barefaced Cheek: The Apotheosis Of Rupert Murdoch.
Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1983.
William H. "Murdoch's Global Power Play." New York Times, 12
Thomas, and Marta F. Dorion. "Citizen Murdoch Presses For More."
Fortune (Chicago) 6 July 1987.
News Corporation Limited. Annual Report. 1994.
William. Rupert Murdoch: Ringmaster Of the Information Circus.
New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
Richard. "Murdoch: His Empire Strikes Back." Financial Post (Toronto)
7 September 1992.
Thomas, Laurie, and Barry Litman. "Fox Broadcasting Company, Why
Now? An Economic Study of the Rise of the Fourth Broadcast 'Network.'"
Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media (Washington,
Jerome. Rupert Murdoch. New York: Donald I. Fine, 1989.
Most Wanted; Australian
FOX Broadcasting Company; Married...with
and Television; Star-TV