In the past year, public backlash over Fox News pundits like Tucker Carson and Laura Ingraham have led some advertisers to pull their support. But Lachlan Murdoch isn’t fazed when it comes to advertising boycotts, saying that they don’t affect the network’s content whatsoever.
“The boycotts themselves are not having a financial impact of any significance,” said the CEO of the network’s parent company, Fox Corp.
Murdoch spoke in front of investors at the MoffettNathanson 6th Annual Media & Communications Summit in New York on Tuesday. He also said that affiliate revenue in Fox News generates more money than advertising, but that he he still believes the company is still “one of the best places in America” for an advertiser to market their brand.
“We’ve generally been able to move those clients around where we can, so it hasn’t had an impact on the financial health of the company,” he continued. And even if boycotts were to hurt the organization financially, he said they “wouldn’t affect the way we program that channel.”
He then brought up an anecdote involving his father, Rupert Murdoch, to illustrate his viewpoint. Once, an important client threatened to pull his advertising from a newspaper that the senior Murdoch owned, if he didn’t stop a journalist from investigating this person’s business.
“My father said, ‘Fine, pull your advertising.’ He ended up not pulling his advertising and we ended up continuing our investigation into what was real fraud in the business,” said Murdoch. “I learned a lesson … advertisers don’t tell our journalists what they can say or what they can write.”
Murdoch also seemed unbothered when asked if he was worried that Fox News, often touted as conservative or right-wing, is too aligned with one political view, or if there would be any risk for the network were President Trump to lose the next election. The CEO dismissed these ideas, citing that Fox News has been the No. 1 news channel in the U.S. for 17 years.
“We’re very confident we can maintain that lead under other administrations … The fact is actually is that you generally do better in opposition as an opinion voice or publisher than you do in alignment or in agreement with the government,” he said. “If you look at the ratings, it’s our competitors who’ve done relatively better under the Trump administration rather than us, so I think the main beneficiary has been MSNBC.”
Fox Corp. is the company remaining after Disney acquired most of 21st Century Fox in a $71.3 billion deal, encompassing the film studio but not the broadcast network. Murdoch said that Fox won’t be following in the footsteps of other entertainment giants like Disney in launching a streaming service for its entertainment network, though he said it already has platforms for news and sports.
“On the entertainment side, we sold our entertainment library to Disney as part of the deal, so we don’t envision any time soon having a pure entertainment direct-to-consumer product,” Murdoch said.
Another change is that Fox News was run “completely separately” and had its own distribution team and advertising team, Murdoch said. Now, the network has one advertising team under one roof to sell ads for news, sports, and entertainment.