Dow Jones Bid Lifts Fox Profile

May 7, 2007  •  Post A Comment

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, a media mogul with a long history of audacious moves, may benefit from his $5 billion play for Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones & Co.—even if the bid doesn’t pan out.
By making a move on a pillar of American business journalism, Mr. Murdoch raised the profile of his long-planned Fox Business Channel, scheduled to launch this year.
“If nothing else, this sure lets everyone know that we intend to play,” said Roger Ailes, Fox News and Fox Television Stations chairman, in his first public comments about Mr. Murdoch’s Dow Jones bid. “If he’s going to go into the business news world, why not take a look at the premier brand of business journalism? He sets a high standard.”
Gaining control of Dow Jones’ marquee business-news assets, including the Journal, MarketWatch.com and Barrons, would bring the Fox Business Channel readymade content and gravitas.
By last week’s end, much had been written about how various factions reacted to the prospect of Mr. Murdoch as a possible Dow Jones owner. Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Ailes have made waves in television news since 1996, when they created the Fox News Channel from scratch in six months. Today, Fox News Channel holds a commanding ratings lead over competitor CNN.
Members of The Journal’s staff and the union representing it stated opposition to the idea of a News Corp. takeover. The Bancroft family, which holds a controlling stake, was largely, though not unanimously, opposed to a sale.
Most pundits and analysts seem to agree the Murdoch gambit, offering 67 percent more than the stock was worth at the time of the bid, could not be flatly ruled out and at least would likely put Dow Jones in play for eventual sale.
“If the family elects not to sell it, it’s not going to happen. There appears to be enough votes against it,” Mr. Ailes said. “At least the shareholders will have to consider it, because it’s a good offer.”
The potential for a relationship between the nascent Fox Business Channel and old-line Dow Jones creates uncertainty for CNBC, the 18-year-old business channel Mr. Murdoch will be tilting at. CNBC, which has a longstanding exclusive content partnership with Dow Jones that runs through 2012, has been girding itself since last year for competition from Fox Business Channel. The incumbent this year has refreshed its programming lineup and hired new talent, even nicknaming itself “America’s Business Channel.”
Mr. Ailes, who headed CNBC before jumping to startup Fox News Channel, said he is unclear about whether the CNBC-Dow Jones contract is ironclad regarding all delivery methods and all parts of the Dow Jones business-news empire.
Mr. Ailes said he doesn’t expect CNBC’s Dow Jones deal is all-encompassing, but that no one seems to have answers on the subject at the moment.
CNBC didn’t respond to calls seeking comment on its Dow Jones partnership.
Mr. Ailes said the Dow Jones bid reflects Mr. Murdoch’s ambitions to succeed with Fox Business Channel.
“I’ve never seen him not want to win. There’s no reason to believe he’s going to take business news lightly,” Mr. Ailes said. “He sets a pretty high bar and people generally underestimate him in a kind of strange way. They say, ‘Well, a business channel,’ and then suddenly he makes a play for Dow Jones. He’s full of surprises, and it shows everybody he’s fully engaged and intends to win.”


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