Murdoch mulls joint venture with Softbank

TOKYO — Rupert Murdoch on Monday confirmed reports that News Corp. is mulling a joint venture with Japan’s Softbank to bring social-networking site MySpace to Japan.

“That’s certainly a possibility,” Murdoch said after a speech in Tokyo. “Here, or in other Asian countries, we’d certainly be open to partnerships.”

He was responding to a question about a report in Japanese business daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun that a 50-50 venture with Softbank is in the works. Paper said the partners would each put up about ¥1 billion ($8.48 million) to form MySpace Japan, which would operate the new site.

Japanese site would provide much the same social-networking services as its U.S. counterpart.

The News Corp. chairman-CEO said he’s planning to meet with Softbank president Masayoshi Son. But Murdoch added that while he may work with Softbank in the media business in Japan, it would not be on an exclusive basis.

Softbank also happens to be the largest stockholder in Yahoo! Japan, with nearly 42%.

Japan already has several popular social-networking sites; the leader is local startup Mixi, with nearly 6 million members.

Softbank, with Yahoo Japan under its corporate umbrella, is experienced in Web-based businesses, but its tie-up with News Corp. would mark its first direct entrance into the social-networking market.

Softbank was recently in the news for the bumbled attempt by group company Softbank Mobile to lure subscribers to its new cell-phone service by widely advertising free number portability as of Oct. 24.

The rush of switchover applications crashed Softbank’s computer system Oct. 28. Softbank Mobile quickly repaired the glitch, but the bad publicity and lost marketing momentum have slowed new applications. Softbank bought the service from Vodafone in April.

At the same time, Softbank Mobile caught flack from the Japanese Fair Trade Commission for ads the FTC said were misleading customers in not spelling out conditions for “free” calls and emails. Softbank Mobile has since agreed to revise the ads.

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