Foxtel’s Booth shifts to JSkyB

SYDNEY — There was an unexpected shuffling of seats at Rupert Murdoch’s Asia-Pacific feevee empire late Thursday when Mark Booth, chief exec of Murdoch’s Aussie cabler Foxtel, was elevated to the post of chief operating officer of News’ Japanese digital satcaster JSkyB, which is due to bow April 1998.

Replacing Booth, who spent 14 months as the topper of Foxtel and remains on its board, is Tom Mockridge, effective immediately. A native of New Zealand, Mockridge has been a Foxtel director since the joint venture with public telco Telstra was formed in 1994. He joined News in 1991 to work on a variety of projects including Murdoch’s rebel SuperLeague rugby competish. A former journalist, Mockridge, 40, served as press secretary to ex-prime minister Paul Keating for seven years, from 1984-91.

JSkyB was established as a Japanese registered company on Dec. 16 as a co-venture between News and Softbank Corp. with paid-in capital of about $177 million. Murdoch is the founding chairman of JSkyB, while Softbank prexy and chief exec Masayoshi Son is the founding prexy.

A Kansas native, Booth, 40, has worked in feevee since 1980, often in startup situations. He filled various posts at MTV in New York in the 1980s, before serving as the founding chief exec of MTV Europe. From late 1988 he was chief exec of the U.K.’s Maxwell Entertainment Group, before serving as the Los Angeles-based founding prexy of United Intl. Holdings’ programming subsid UIHP.

“We will work to optimize the JSkyB brand to achieve a breakthrough from the clutter on TV,” Booth told Daily Variety from his new offices in Tokyo. “Japan is one of the most important TV markets in the world, and this is an unrivaled opportunity.”

“Mr. Booth is an extremely talented and experienced pay TV executive who has led Foxtel from its inception and created a dynamic and effective company,” Murdoch said. “I look forward to working very closely with him in meeting the challenges of developing JSkyB.”

Added News Australia managing director Lachlan Murdoch: “While we are disappointed to lose (Booth) from Australia, it is a measure of the high quality of his work that he has been chosen to lead our new venture in Japan.”

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