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James Murdoch dodges Fox-Disney sales question in the Conference – Variety

21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch eluded a question about the possibility of Fox selling a large portion of his assets to Disney in his question and answer session on Tuesday morning at the Global Communications Conference and UBS media.

Murdoch took the stage the investors confab an hour after CNBC reported that Fox is closing a $ 60 billion deal with Disney to sell its film and television studio, FX and cable networks Nat Geo, regional networks of Fox Sports and other key assets. Murdoch did not move when pressed to comment on the report. 21st Century Fox has not yet made a formal statement about the rumors of sale talks with Disney and Comcast that have swirled in recent weeks.

"There is nothing to add to that apart from what we have said so far," Murdoch said. It allowed the company to have an obligation to consider the options of its assets in a changing market.

"Changing the way the business always goes (it will be considered in terms of) what will create the most value for all of our shareholders," he said.

Later in the 45-minute question and answer session, Murdoch indirectly referred to Disney's sales prospect when discussing how Fox's transmission network would operate if it were no longer connected to the 20th century. Production unit of Fox Television.

"I think it's feasible," he said, noting that all networks are pushing for greater participation in the programs they carry. "That it's over is a more complicated economy."

Murdoch emphasized the prospects for the growth of FX Networks and the National Geographic Channel group. He said that investments in programming for those brands have paid off in the form of higher membership fees and better traction with consumers. "Everything is reduced, in the long term, to how you boost the growth of affiliates and make them really present in the pile of decisions of people," he said. "Creative excellence in FX is really very rewarding to see, we encourage you to set the bar high."

Fox's boss also received high praise for the upcoming list of the film studio. He cited Steven Spielberg's "The Post" as "a great movie, really special," and said there was "great hope" for the upcoming specialty photographs "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," "The Shape of Water" and "Isle of Dogs. "

Murdoch added that the company had been" a bit frustrated for several years "with the creative production of 20th Century Fox, but the current regime, under Stacey Snider," has really leaned towards him, taking some risks. "

Among other issues raised during the session:

NFL Ratings : Murdoch acknowledged that the decline in NFL ratings has affected television revenues, especially for television. Fox local stations. Suggested that part of the problem may be an excess action of pigskin. "There's a lot of football" on television these days, he said, citing the volume of college games and "Thursday Night Football." "The volume is having an impact on the average ratings for any slot," he said. At the same time, even with comparisons from year to year, "the NFL is still tremendously powerful," he said.

TV channel deals : Murdoch made no comment about the impact of the Sinclair- Tribune Fusion on the distribution profile of the Fox network (the agreement would make Sinclair the largest owner of the affiliates of Fox). It is rumored that Fox would try to buy some Sinclair stations, if the FCC forces the divestments as part of the approval of the $ 3.9 billion transaction. Acquiring more local television stations "is not a place where we want to go and deploy a ton of capital," he said, but would be open to opportunities to "improve our distribution opportunities" and the potential to generate more retransmission dollars from MVPDs.

"Buffy" regrets: 20th Century Fox TV has thrived selling successful shows to networks outside the Fox family. "This Is Us" by NBC is the latest example of a studio show that became a success for a rival announcer. But that still gives Fox a diverse mix of revenue streams from its content investment. It is also important that producers find the right home for the program, even if it costs the Fox network a potential blow. The only number 20 television show that Murdoch feels should have been on Fox's air was "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which went to the WB network in 1997.

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