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Murdoch: Sky consolidation will give big boost to creative industry

James Murdoch

James Murdoch

21st Century Fox’s consolidation of Sky will provide a major boost for creative industries in the UK as well as Germany and Italy, according to 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch.

Speaking at the Deloitte Enders Media & Telecoms 2017 & Beyond conference in London, Murdoch also said that the global migration of content distribution and consumption to IP platforms would lead to unprecedented competition that would provide opportunities for players with scale that remain grounded in creativity – such as Fox.

Murdoch said that the UK had been central to the company’s strategy and that its move to consolidate Sky was “a major leap, at least as far as intent, in a long process that started a number of years ago.”

He said that consolidation of Sky would provide a boost for the creative industries in the UK, Germany and Italy. In addition, he said, consolidation was necessary to ensure that Sky could continue to compete with the internet giants that are now playing a growing role in the media business globally.

“Looking to the future, we’re confident the enhanced scale and capabilities of the combined company will be a powerful driver of the creative industry’s vibrancy in Britain, plus in Italy, and in Germany, and in the global market, and a provider of better experiences for customers everywhere,” he said.

“And to do this at scale, which this combination enables, ensures that the Sky business can continue to compete within a competitive set that now includes some of the largest companies in the world, but none of whom have the local depth of investment and commitment to the UK and to Europe.”

21st Century Fox was this week set to notify the European Commission of its bid to take over the 61% of Sky that it does not already own. UK culture secretary Karen Bradley will then have to decide whether to launch a formal investigation into the bid. The plan remains controversial, with a group of UK politicians last month calling for UK regulator Ofcom to investigate whether Murdoch is a “fit and proper” person to hold a broadcasting licence.

Murdoch said that globally, migration of content consumption to IP networks will lead to an era of unprecedented supercharged competition in media, but one that “presents an opportunity for accelerated growth for new and existing video creators and platforms” that have “a commitment to creative excellence”.

“Over the medium term, and approaching quickly, all video entertainment and news will be consumed over IP streaming networks,” he said.

“That means that what we create is released into an unprecedented competitive environment, in which the customer can choose at any minute and on any device from all the things that have ever been made. We are in an era of ultimate plurality, where choices, sources, and access are multiplied, even from where we were only five years ago.”

Murdoch said that the era of unlimited choice means that media companies “need to be making better things all the time”, including content and the user experience surrounding it.

He said that while the proliferation of video platforms and devices “presents the most promising opportunity for this industry in decades”, success remains dependent on what he called “a commitment to creative excellence”.

In the case of Fox, he said, this means an approach that is “deliberately diverse”, citing the statistic that the group will produce over 500 original series this year.

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