Tipping a cap to Chernin

Personality of the Year also reps News Corp. success

Reflecting the Fox credo that audiences generally know best, Peter Chernin is upbeat about the tastes of TV viewers abroad and the role that his company should play in attracting them.

At Mipcom, News Corp.’s No. 2 exec will receive the Personality of the Year Award in recognition of his contributions to running Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire.

Chernin joins a clutch of influential TV execs , from Ted Turner and Silvio Berlusconi to Roberto Marinho and Sumner Redstone, who have copped the award in preceding years.

The award to Chernin is a nod to News Corp.’s impact on the entire TV biz — from its worldwide ring of satcasters to its ubiquitous hits “The Simpsons,” “The X-Files” and “24,” to its local production efforts on four continents.

Unlike traditional Euro pubcasters, the News Corp. media mantra is: Respond creatively to what auds want, rather than giving them what they supposedly need.

“Wherever in the media world one goes,” says one international TV veteran, “folks know what Fox stands for: It’s young, hip and brash and not easily intimidated. In short, it’s a brand.”

Despite a leveling off of revs from program sales of U.S. product abroad in the last few years, Chernin says he’s not overly concerned about the growing popularity of locally made rather than U.S.-produced shows around the world.

That tendency, he says, is only natural. Rather, he says, “the issue for us is to embrace this shift and find ways to respond to it. It’s all about serving the desires of the audience, whatever that is.”

Chernin, News Corp. prexy and chief operating officer, is credited with leading the Fox network to a ratings surge, overseeing a profitable movie studio and TV station group, and steering the company’s strong domestic and international syndication arms.

Chernin says he expects interesting synergies if News Corp.’s bid to take over DirecTV in the U.S. passes, as expected, its final regulatory hurdles. He sees cost efficiencies in terms of spectrum and programming as well as a sharing of expertise and best practices.

BSkyB’s advanced interactivity and customer service arrangements in the U.K., for example, could come into play in the U.S., he suggests.

The company’s longstanding practice of moving experienced execs around the global Murdoch chessboard may accelerate.

As for Telepiu, the Italo-satcaster that News Corp. recently took over and renamed Sky Italia, Chernin says current contracts with Hollywood program suppliers will be honored but that pricing on upcoming renewals would reflect “more cost-conscious times.”

About the DVD explosion and its potential effect on the value of movies on TV, Chernin is equally sanguine: “We’ve largely found that different windows provide for different experiences. Strong movies, it turns out, seem to do better in each successive window.”

Chernin says he believes in the value of markets like Mipcom, where intl. buyers and sellers can rub elbows and where the pulse of the biz can be taken.

He praised organizers for devoting sessions this go-round to copyright theft — an up-to-now intractable problem he believes is the single biggest threat to the corporate bottom line.

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