News Corp. taps Miller as digital chief

Exec named CEO of Digital Media Group

Jonathan Miller was officially named News Corp.’s digital honcho Wednesday, taking on many of the duties of the soon-to-exit Peter Chernin.

The announcement confirmed widespread reports about Miller coming aboard and Peter Levinsohn shifting from Fox Interactive Media to a new digital role at Fox Filmed Entertainment (Daily Variety, March 30).

“Our focus moving forward is twofold: to enable our digital businesses to flourish as individual entities and to bolster the digital strategies of our core media properties by treating them as central to, and not separate from, the enterprise,” said News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch in announcing Miller’s appointment.

A top priority for Miller will be wringing more profit from MySpace. Figuring out how to make money from the social networking giant hasn’t been easy as it continues to draw huge traffic domestically but is seeing its turf threatened by Facebook and others, especially overseas.

In News Corp.’s last quarter, MySpace took in about $226 million in revenue and did turn a profit, but only $7 million.

Miller and Levinsohn’s posts are newly defined. Miller, best known for running AOL from 2002-06, is chairman and chief exec of the Digital Media Group and chief digital officer of News Corp. The main standalone properties he will guide are MySpace, IGN and Photobucket, along with plotting digital strategy overall.

Levinsohn is prexy of new media and digital distribution, focusing on new delivery methods for film and TV titles and reporting to studio bosses Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos.

Aside from boosting profits, Miller will need to find a replacement for the lucrative multiyear deal with Google, which expires next year. Later this year, the pricey contracts of founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson are set to expire, so that will be another question.

“He’s going to have to cut costs dramatically, which will be tough to do after just arriving there,” said Julia Angwin, a Wall Street Journal reporter whose new book, “Stealing MySpace,” investigates the site’s peculiar odyssey through the media biz.

One notable if below-the-radar strategic shift accompanying the exec posts is the move of from Fox Interactive Media to the Fox Sports group, where it will be run by sports topper David Hill.

At 52, Miller has had a lengthy run in the media and Web biz, with stints at USA Networks (forerunner of Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp), Nickelodeon, Paramount and the NBA. After ankling AOL, he formed investment firm Velocity Interactive Group and was a highly visible figure on the Gotham media scene.

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