News, Notes & Commentary on the world of HRTS

A Conversation with Chase Carey

Chase Carey stage shotThe 2010-11 HRTS Newsmaker Luncheon series kicked off on September 14th at the Beverly Hilton and opened with newly-reelected HRTS President Kevin Beggs announcing the return of the Network Presidents luncheon, scheduled for next month with all five broadcast network presidents taking part.

Keeping with the theme of presidents, the HRTS hosted a conversation with Chase Carey, Deputy Chairman, President and COO of News Corporation. He was interviewed by Ben Grossman, Editor-in-Chief of Broadcasting & Cable, who first asked him for his thoughts about the biggest show on television, the one that has remade unscripted television: JERSEY SHORE. Carey quipped “I’m from Connecticut” though he did admit to having heard of Snooki.

Grossman asked about industry trends and Carey said that he sees the iPad as a game-changer, since “it’s not only a mobile experience, it’s a much richer experience” than earlier mobile platforms. Carey added that he enjoys reading the Wall Street Journal on his iPad and that for any new technology or service there is “an incredible importance to being user-friendly and easy to use”.

Much has been made about the death of the traditional broadcast business model but when Grossman asked if the model was "screwed",  Carey said that broadcast is not,  as long as there are retransmission fees being paid, adding that a broadcast network with dual revenue streams will be able to compete with a similarly-funded cable network. Though much has changed, the broadcast audience still dwarfs any cable network out there and so Carey struck an optimistic note by saying that “I think it has a bright future”.

Revenues being only one half of the equation, Grossman inquired about cost structures and Carey said that “you’re not gonna cost cut your way to success”, that the investments must be there in order to move forward. That being said, it still “doesn’t make sense to have 25 pilots in order to make 5 shows”, it will always be important to try and develop new ways of investing more efficiently.

On the distribution side, Grossman pointed out the ever-growing number of competing outlets and asked “how is that changing the way you do business today?” Carey responded that “the biggest change is simply focus”, being able to recognize all of the forces and adapt to them on an ongoing basis. He added that you can’t wish it all away and hope that things will go back to the network-dominated business models of the 1980s. Fragmentation of the viewing audience will continue and so it’s incumbent upon broadcast and cable companies to continually “introduce capabilities that consumers are going to want”.

As for the much-publicized ‘late night wars’, Carey said that “I have great respect for Conan”, going on to note that late-night is a tough place that is “not the same as it was 15 years ago”, with many more competitors across the board. Carey said that he doesn’t believe that FOX has to have a late-night show, that he places the possibility of one into the opportunistic category.

As for 3D, Carey said that he doesn’t think it’ll ever be as big as HD, since “in this phase it’s more of an event technology” and since he doesn’t see where viewers will “pop home at 8-o-clock every night and watch TV with glasses on”. Movies and sports will do well on 3D but Carey sees it as a more targeted technology, it won’t be as big as HD but “I think it’ll grow, I think it’s real, I think it is a richer experience”.

Grossman’s last question was as to what keeps Carey up at night and he replied that “as all these digital technologies emerge, can we navigate them in a way that you come out on the other side not looking like the music business?” Ending on an optimistic note, Carey said that there are always new opportunities to build core businesses while developing emerging platforms “in a way that is additive to the whole”.

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