LONDON – “We’ve moved on,” said Chase Carey, president and chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox, when asked whether there would be a renewed bid for Time Warner at a London TV industry conference Tuesday.
“We don’t want to be revisiting something that is in the past or implying that we are continuing to be engaged,” he said at the event organized by the Royal Television Society, which gathers together senior U.K. TV execs.
“The initiative behind Time Warner was about content, and I think what motivated us to take the step we took to try to acquire Time Warner was the opportunity to create a company that would have a unique position of leadership in terms of unique global content and brands.”
Carey said there were no other acquisition targets in sight.
“We don’t have an acquisition list,” he said. “Time Warner was a unique opportunity for us. We thought that at a point in time when scale matters, we saw a company that would fit with us, and most importantly with the emergence of these digital platforms it really made it uniquely attractive to have a breadth of content that would enable us to define the next consumer experiences, have contents packaged, access global platform and the like.”
He added: “Barring that, there really isn’t a second choice. We are going to go back to pursuing what we had been pursuing, which is largely building businesses, building channels in the U.S. and internationally, and continuing to invest in content.”
Talking about the investments in BOOM! Studios and Vice, Carey referred to them as “opportunistic investments.”
“We are a content company… We like to take opportunities to invest in all different types of content,” he said, citing the example of the company’s acquisition of Shine. “It was an investment that enabled us to participate in an exciting part of the content world that we didn’t think we had the base in that we’d like to have, which was the international marketplace and the unscripted marketplace. And we will continue to look for ways to broaden our investment in content creation in every place that we do business.”
Carey said that U.K. production companies would continue to attract interest from U.S. media companies. “The attraction is the success of the creative community here,” he said. “We invest in content that we think we can bring to a broader audience.”
He added that Fox would make further investments in U.K. production companies. “You can expect us to invest more (in the U.K.),” he said, although he added that Fox’s investments would be in growing existing businesses as well as through acquisitions. “We have always prioritized building businesses,” he said.
He said that the plan to merge Fox-owned Shine Group, Apollo-owned Endemol and CORE Media Group was proceeding. “We hope it is happening, but it is in process,” he said. “We hope that it comes to completion in the short-term future.”
He said that Fox’s recent move to sell its stakes in pay TV operators Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia to BSkyB, in which Fox holds a 39% stake, should be seen as a positive development.
“We would not view it as selling or in any way taking a judgement on our bet on the future of Sky. We are very excited about the future of the BSkyB franchise with Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia as part of it,” he said.
Carey said Fox had no plans to make another bid for the shares in BSkyB it does not own already, although he did not rule out making such a bid in the future. “I don’t think it ever makes sense for us to say long term we are not going to do X, Y or Z. You have to see how the world evolves,” he said. “All I can say clearly is we have no plans. There are no initiatives underway.”
He added that Fox had no plans to acquire the U.K. commercial broadcast network ITV.
Speaking at a later session, Alex Mahon, the chief executive of Shine Group, was asked which party in the Shine-Endemol merger would be the “big beast” that would dominate the relationship.
“We won’t know until it’s done. We won’t know until it comes together as one company,” she said. “Both companies are full of really good creative people. Different kinds of programs. We tend to be factual and scripted; they tend to be gameshow and entertainment; but both interested in great content. And that’s what attracts people, and that’s what you need to keep front and center when you run a company.”
Also speaking at the conference, Liberty Global’s chief strategy officer Jim Ryan said the company has no plans to up its stake in ITV, following its acquisition of a 6.4% stake earlier this year.
“We have no current plans to build that stake,” he said. “We do want to find some portfolio investments we can use to enhance the Virgin Media acquisition, so for us the ITV stake, where it is right now is perfect… it gives us a seat at the table, at any U.K. content discussions.”