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News Corp. Mulling Channel to Rival CNBC

Nov 16, 2004  •  Post A Comment

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch on Tuesday said his company may launch a business-news channel by summer and noted that the field is wide enough for some competition from the media giant.

Speaking at Fox Entertainment Group’s annual meeting in New York, Mr. Murdoch said the company’s new cable-channel launch initiative is first focusing on rolling out a reality-television-based channel by spring but could perhaps launch a rival to NBC Universal’s CNBC by summer.

Saying that CNBC has done a “poor job,” Mr. Murdoch said the marketplace is “wide open to competition,” and that News Corp. has a leg up, given it has some of the most popular business-themed shows on cable.

Mr. Murdoch for months has indicated an interest in launching a business channel to take on CNBC, whose ratings have suffered amid the recession and a volatile stock market. Time Warner’s CNN announced recently it is shutting down its business channel CNNfn amid poor ratings and carriage performance.

Mr. Murdoch also said he plans to meet with Liberty Media Chairman John Malone in the next month or two to discuss Liberty’s recent move to increase its stake in News Corp. to 17 percent from 9 percent.

Liberty two weeks ago said in a filing that it is seizing an opportunity to increase its stake in News Corp., which spurred News Corp. to adopt a poison-pill strategy designed to prevent Liberty or any other shareholder from amassing a controlling stake in News Corp.

Mr. Murdoch acknowledged Tuesday that he was taken aback by Mr. Malone’s move and said the two men have had “very friendly conversations” about Mr. Malone’s signing a standstill agreement that would prevent Mr. Malone from launching a takeover of News Corp., though Mr. Murdoch said the talks “were too vague to report” at this time.

Mr. Malone’s chance to raise his stake in News Corp. came when a number of Australian shareholders were forced to sell their holdings in News Corp. after the company announced plans to reincorporate in the United States.

Standard & Poor’s, which runs stock indexes in the United States and Australia, ruled that News Corp. could not maintain a presence in both indexes if it planned to become a U.S. company, causing the Australian investors to unload their shares. Liberty snapped up the shares, effectively doubling its stake in News Corp.