Rupe’s reality plan

Murdoch makes good on nonfiction net

NEW YORK — Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. said Wednesday the much-anticipated Fox Reality Channel is officially skedded to launch June 1, give or take a couple of weeks.

Earlier this week, Fox Reality recruited former Game Show Network exec Bob Boden to head up programming.

As for the Fox News Channel financial news net spinoff, News Corp. exec VP of investor relations Gary Ginsberg said the conglom hopes to launch it sometime this calendar year but nothing is definite.

Speaking at the Banc of America Securities investors confab in Gotham, Ginsberg told investors that the conglom’s stable of cable nets remain a strong growth driver.

Turning to the overall financial picture, Ginsberg said News Corp. was well ahead of the other media and entertainment congloms in terms of revenue growth and other key financial measures in 2004.

Murdoch’s shop said it also remains hopeful it can find a mutually beneficial way to wrest back a large chunk of News Corp. voting stock from John Malone.

At the same time, Ginsberg said News Corp. doesn’t negotiate its deals in public. He also stressed that Malone and Murdoch have had only one preliminary meeting, and that Murdoch wasn’t able to turn his full attention to the matter until the buyback of Fox Filmed Entertainment was completed. That has now happened.

Ginsberg’s comment came one day after Malone, appearing at the same investors confab, said he wasn’t all that keen to do a cash-rich spinoff in return for handing back some of the News Corp. stock, which his company Liberty Media snapped up late last year.

Malone quipped that Murdoch would probably “build him a statue” if things worked out satisfactorily.

“I read John’s comments, and I’d like it if that statue was erected,” Ginsberg said.

News Corp. believes it has plenty of leverage to use in negotiating with Malone. And the company’s board always has the option of extending indefinitely a poison-pill provision that would make it prohibitively expensive for Liberty to mount a hostile takeover.

Liberty’s stake in News Corp. now stands at 18%, second only to the 30% stake held by the Murdoch family.

Looking overseas, Ginsberg told investors that News Corp.’s television ventures in India and China are prospering. He also said that satcasting service Sky Italia hasn’t been hurt by the bow of a digital terrestrial service owned by Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset, Italy’s dominant TV group.

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