21st Century Fox president and Fox networks group chairman Peter Rice stated a preference for Disney as the company to ultimately acquire the majority of Fox, despite Comcast’s reported renewed interest in outbidding the Mouse. “I think it’s a great fit for Disney,” Rice said at Recode’s Code Media event in Southern California Monday.
“We’ve had a speculation-palooza,” admitted Rice when asked about Comcast’s moves. He admitted that Fox assets would be a great complement to both companies, but argued that ultimately if he had to choose, Disney would be a better partner. “We are excited about it,” he said about the announced deal.
Still, Rice himself didn’t want to commit to joining Disney if and when the deal goes through, and said that he could see himself at either the entertainment giant or the much smaller “New Fox” company that will hold Fox News, the Fox broadcast network and some other assets that won’t be going to Disney. “They are gonna be two amazing companies,” he said, adding that he thought people might underestimate New Fox. “It will be a more disruptive company than people believe.”
Part of that will be the company’s sports rights, which include the Thursday Night Football deal the company recently struck with the NFL for more than $3 billion. Rice argued that the company didn’t overpay, despite waning interest in the league, in part because the new deal include the rights to launch a direct-to-consumer offering. “It gives us the opportunity to do that,” he said.
Rice also seemed bullish about over-the-top subscription businesses in general, stating that Hulu’s live TV service, DirecTV Now and other services had brought in 4 million new TV subscribers for Fox in aggregate, more than making up for cord-cutting. Asked whether these cheaper services generate enough money for the industry, he quipped that they were paying the same amount to Fox as traditional cable services.
Rice isn’t currently overseeing Fox News, but he was nonetheless asked about sexual harassment at the news organization. Without responding directly, Rice said that society in general was having what he called a watershed moment. “Every business has to deal with it,” he said. “And I think that’s a good thing.” He continued that victims of secual harassment that have been coming forward were “incredibly brave.”