LONDON – At a recent London TV conference talking shop, Elisabeth Murdoch, head of fast-growing U.K. shingle Shine, made a throwaway remark that, arguably, spoke volumes.
“My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad” is a funny title for a show, Murdoch opined, referring to the NBC reality skein produced by Reveille, the company acquired by Shine earlier this year.
But it happens to be true in your case, quipped her interviewer, ex-Endemol U.K. topper Peter Bazalgette.
Just for a moment, the eldest of Rupert Murdoch’s three children who’ve worked in his media empire failed to get the joke, but then her famous poise momentarily cracked, allowing a smile.
Expect no similar glitches when she delivers her flagship address at Mip on April 7, “Creativity Without Borders.”
While her personal appearances on industry platforms are rare, they tend to be faultless, carefully choreographed occasions adding to her reputation for being a slick operator.
Being Rupert Murdoch’s daughter was never going to be easy. In one of her few on-the-record interviews with the British press, in reply to a question about her being part of the Murdoch clan, she told the Observer in 2004: “You have to laugh it off. It’s a matter of fact, part of life. It doesn’t bother me.”
If that sounds disingenuous, two facts regarding Elisabeth’s British career need to be remembered:
- Prior to forming Shine, her four years working at U.K. paybox BSkyB (in which News Corp. holds a controlling stake) had been difficult, culminating in her quitting the company after being overlooked for the top job.
- Despite her family being the closest thing there is to media royalty, Shine has taken several years to come into its own.
“You’ve got to remember that this is a pretty unforgiving business,” says John McVay, CEO of U.K. independent producers’ lobby group PACT.
Thanks to the Reveille deal, Shine is now ranked as one of Blighty’s biggest indies — and the first to snap up a U.S. shingle. For Shine, whose investors include Sony Pictures Television and BSkyB (which increased its stake to 11.3% in January), the pivotal moment in the combo’s history was less the purchase of Ben Silverman’s one-time baby than the acquisition of three U.K. producers in December 2006.
It was then that Murdoch bought factual specialist Firefly, entertainment shingle Princess Prods. and, most significant of all, drama shingle Kudos, makers of “Life on Mars,” forking out a total of around $130 million.
The move gave Shine a real sense of scale in what was a rapidly consolidating sector. So how did Murdoch, born in Sydney in 1968 and educated in the U.S., get to where she is today?
“Elisabeth is incredibly focused and has that famous Murdoch charm,” says a senior British TV executive who has watched her career take off.
“Like all the Murdochs, once she decides she wants something, there is very little that will get in her way.”
Shine’s numerous U.K. hits include the EmmyAward-winning “Sugar Rush,” “Masterchef Goes Large” and a string of top-performing Kudos dramas including “The Fixer” in addition to Reveille titles like “Ugly Betty” and “The Tudors.”
At Shine, Murdoch has surrounded herself with a talented team of execs who will need no reminding of their boss’s global ambitions. McVay, referring to Murdoch’s success at expanding her company over the past year-plus, reckons that “in the next 12 to 18 months, I think you can expect more of the same from Shine.”
That may be the case, but more pertinently, it may be something in the Murdoch genes that has propelled her success.
Says a Shine insider: “Elisabeth is a natural-born businesswoman with a very sharp commercial instinct who also happens to have very good taste.”
Sounds like a chip off the old block. What was that about “My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad”?