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Fox’s Vinciquerra: Digital a Work in Progress

Dec 6, 2006  •  Post A Comment

In the next year or two the media world will begin to figure out what consumers really want on digital platforms and how that can best be monetized, but “we’re really in the first inning of that game,” Fox Networks Group President Tony Vinciquerra said Wednesday to Wall Street analysts attending the annual Credit Suisse Media and Telecom Week conference.

Right now, “what we’re trying to do is be very clear about something that is not clear. We really don’t know what the consumer really wants,” he said.

Video-on-demand offerings at the Fox Broadcasting network level and through Fox stations have had some “pretty good” response from consumers and downloadable video has a future, Mr. Vinciquerra said, but the Fox executive added that so far it’s a “minor business” that adds up.

He said probably 40 percent of the ad deals in the Fox cable properties he oversees have some digital component, and that that money is coming less from advertisers’ broadcast budgets than from such columns as promotions.

Mr. Vinciquerra declined to give a specific digital ad growth projection but said it will be more than “whatever Jeff Zucker said the other day.” Mr. Zucker, the CEO of the NBC Universal Television Group, on the first day of the Credit Suisse conference projected NBCU digital revenues would hit $300 million to $400 million next year and $1 billion by 2009.

The demand for advertising on the cable side and good scatter prices on the cable and broadcast sides, as well as the return in January of Fox Broadcasting hits “24” and “American Idol,” all add up to Fox feeling “pretty happy with what’s going on. Our business is very strong,” he said.

Mr. Vinciquerra said that the sluggish upfront this year was not a sign that the upfront is broken but a reflection of the gross domestic product being off, which he expects to be the case next year. He predicted that upfront advertising revenues overall will be “a tick or two less.”

He also said Fox anticipates launching more networks that are extensions of existing cable channels, sometimes via broadband, instead of as 24-hour channels. Among the possible examples he listed were a National Geographic channel dedicated to animals in the wild and a Speed Channel offshoot about car auctions.