21st Century Fox president fails to shut door on BSkyB takeover

Chase Carey

Chase Carey

The president and chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox, Chase Carey, failed to rule out making another 100% bid for BSkyB but said that the firm’s current focus is on establishing Sky Europe.

Speaking at the Royal Television Society conference in London this morning, Carey, said that 21st Century Fox’s plan “right now” is to pursue its July-announced Sky Europe deal – which will see Fox sell to BSkyB its 57.4% stake in Sky Deutschland and 100% stake in Sky Italia, while keeping a 39.14% shareholding in BSkyB.

However, he added: “I don’t think it ever makes sense for us to say, long-term, we’re not going to do X, Y and Z. I think you have to see how the world evolves and that’s just reality. But certainly what I can say clearly is we have no plans, we have no initiatives underway.”

Carey, as News Corp chairman, had led efforts by the firm to buy 100% of BSkyB, but dropped the offer in 2011 in the wake of the phone hacking scandal. News Corp was subsequently divided in two – splitting into News Corp as its publishing division and 21st Century Fox as entertainment and media arm.

Speaking about the future direction of 21st Century Fox’s business, Carey said there was no “second choice” to its recent US$76 billion Time Warner bid, which Fox abandoned earlier this year, but said the firm would continue to invest in “great content.”

“Time Warner was very much a unique opportunity for us that we thought at a point in time,” said Carey. He claimed the deal was “uniquely attractive” as it would have enabled it to define next-generation consumer experiences and how content is packaged and accessed.

“We were very clear there isn’t a second choice to Time Warner. We’re going to go back to pursuing what we’ve been pursuing, which is largely been building businesses, building channels in the United States, building channels internationally, continuing to invest in content.”

In line with this, he said that the mooted Shine-Endemol merger is “in process,” adding “we hope that it comes to completion in the short-term future.”

Referring to Fox’s acquisition of a stake in Vice Media, and its recent first-look deal with BOOM! Studios, Carey described both as “opportunistic investments.”

“We are a content company. We like content. We like to be taking opportunities to invest in all different types of content. Our acquisition of Shine a couple of years ago was an investment that enabled us to anticipate an exciting part of the content world that we didn’t think we had the base in that we would like to have – which was the international marketplace, the unscripted marketplace,” said Carey.

“I think we’ll continue to look for ways to broaden our footprint and our investment into content creation in really every place we do business,” he added, citing Italy, Germany and the UK as specific examples.

Talking about the rationale behind the establishment of Sky Europe, Carey said it was a unique opportunity for “putting the Sky franchises together under one umbrella at a point in time where you have a degree of consolidation going on in Europe.”

“We felt the best path to putting the Skys together was through this process and it was the one we could move forward with most efficiently, most effectively and most quickly,” said Carey.

“We’re very excited about the future of the BSkyB franchise – [with] Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland as part of it.”