News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch Wednesday swore off new deals any time soon as markets continued rocky and jittery investors pummeled stocks across the board.
“We’re not doing anything while the economic future is as murky as it is now,” Murdoch told a subdued group of Wall Streeters at Goldman Sachs’ annual Communacopia media conference in Gotham.
In particular, he added, “We’re not interested in buying any more newspapers. We have what we have. And they’re undervalued, which means we probably can’t sell them.” The mogul’s still taking lots of flack for his $5 billion purchase of The Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones late last year.
The current economic meltdown is hitting local TV stations and newspapers hardest, Murdoch said, but he believes the company’s strong cable networks, Internet biz, and international reach can balance things out.
He said he’s mainly looking to add small pieces to his global empire, and will focus on assets with subscription models, versus advertising. “Hard times are good for big companies, if you think of the long term at all,” he said.
Murdoch also stepped in to defended The Wall Street Journal, which he said is holding up better than other papers since it’s got more business-to-business, than consumer advertising.
(He noted the company gets $100,000 for an ad on the WSJ’s home page – and $500,000 for one on the MySpace home page.)
He expects WSJ print advertising to be flat to slightly lower, but noted increases at the European and Asian editions. He predicted that all Dow Jones properties together will boost subscription revenue by up to $300 million a year for the next two to three years.
On the TV side, while local broadcast may be on the skids, Murdoch said upfront advertising on the Fox Broadcast Network is holding steady with barely any cancellations and that the network is selling scatter at higher prices than the upfront. He wouldn’t say by how much.
In response to a question, he mused that he may have been hasty in selling satcaster DirecTV. The threat he feared from cable’s triple play, and from telecom companies, hasn’t really materialized yet, he said, getting a dig in at satellites’ two rivals. “But I still think I was right long term,” he said.
As for the movies, Murdoch acknowledged the film studio had, as expected, a rotten summer. He said the studio “will be OK” for the rest of this year but that most of its big releases, like “Night At the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” won’t really show up in profits until 2010.
News Corp.’s fiscal year ends in June.