NEWS CORPORATION, LTD.

The 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.

News 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."

In 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.

Another 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.

 

News 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 short time.

Today, 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.

- David Gunzerath

FURTHER READING

Block, Alex Ben. Outfoxed. New York: St. Martin's, 1990.

Cohen, Roger. "Rupert Murdoch's Biggest Gamble." New York Times, 21 October 1990.

Fabrikant, 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.

Feder, Barney. "Murdoch's Time Of Reckoning." New York Times, 20 December 1990.

Gaskell, John, and Sally Malcolm-Smith. "The World According to Murdoch: Empire Without Frontiers." Sunday Telegraph (London), 5 September 1993.

Kiernan, Thomas. Citizen Murdoch. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1986.

Kirkland, Richard I., and Gwen Kinkead. "Rupert Murdoch's Motley Empire." Fortune (Chicago), 20 February 1984.

Leapman, Michael. Barefaced Cheek: The Apotheosis Of Rupert Murdoch. Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1983.

Meyers, William H. "Murdoch's Global Power Play." New York Times, 12 June 1988.

Moore, Thomas, and Marta F. Dorion. "Citizen Murdoch Presses For More." Fortune (Chicago) 6 July 1987.

News Corporation Limited. Annual Report. 1994.

Shawcross, William. Rupert Murdoch: Ringmaster Of the Information Circus. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.

Siklos, 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, D.C.), 1991.

Tuccille, Jerome. Rupert Murdoch. New York: Donald I. Fine, 1989.

 

See also America's Most Wanted; Australian Television; British Sky Broadcasting; FOX Broadcasting Company; Married...with Children; Murdoch, Rupert; The Simpsons; Sports and Television; Star-TV (Hong Kong)