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India has the single biggest opportunity in the coming decade: James Murdoch

MUMBAI: Media scion James Murdoch, who will be 21st Century Fox CEO next month, is bullish on the future of his company in India.

255px-James Murdoch” We are a global business and have always been so but I have to say we think India is the single greatest opportunity in the next five to 10 years. India is an emerging super power—an extraordinary place to do business,” he said at the ongoing Cannes Lions Festival.

While acknowledging that the country’s media landscape has had its ups and downs, he noted the huge appetite for media and entertainment that is present in the country. He also pointed out to the explosion of growth of the internet.

Sports rights

Murdoch noted that there is a breaking point in terms of the rising costs of sports properties for TV channels. However, this does not apply to all properties. Referring to the work being done in India regarding cricket, soccer (Indian Super League) and kabaddi (Pro Kabaddi League), he said, “I think it is always hard to call and end in sight. Some sports are just incredibly valuable and you’ll see continued escalation but there are breaking points. It depends on the business you can make out of it.

“We are a huge investor in sports, we love the sport business. But at the same time we try not to rely on one or other sport in a given market. We like to see multi-sport markets where you can deliver a big breadth of content to customers so you can balance and make choices.”

While some sports will get price inflation, it does not mean that ‘any price is the right price’.

“I think the demand for things that are fundamentally distinctive, engaging and differentiated is very very high. As we see a proliferation of competition and innovation downstream, in terms of people trying to provide content to customers, sport is going to continue to be a real driver of that. It doesn’t mean that any price is the right price.”

Regarding the Hotstar app, he said, “It’s a whole new ad platform. We are working with a whole lot of partners to monetise it in a new way.”

The ad scene

As far as the future of advertising is concerned, he expects ads to become less intrusive. Murdoch noted that as new models emerge, advertising would become less intrusive and the traditional number of ad spots would likely fall while brands might sponsor periods of free-streaming access.

“Certainly, in entertainment formats, we will see less interruptive formats; we have to replace that with new, engaging formats. I really believe a streaming environment for entertainment content is better for customers, media and advertisers.”

He noted that the pay TV industry had done little innovating and that in the streaming world, one is not competing against that night’s shows, but everything that has ever been made.

In five years, consumers would not differentiate between traditional broadcast, cable TV and streaming video, since everything will be delivered via IP connections.

Giving his views on ad-free platforms, he said, “I just wouldn’t give up on ad-free networks. I don’t think we do ad-supported platforms as well as we can. New products will change how we engage with brands. People would watch less interruptive advertising, not necessarily less advertising.”

On father Rupert and brother Lachlan

James said that he did not disagree much with his father Rupert Murdoch on the future of 21st Century Fox. “Not much. His vision from when we first acquired 20th Century Fox, the film studio, in the ’80s was clear. Incredible, really incredibly differentiated content. That the creative business was something that was just going to grow in value and going to find multiple ways to reach customers and find new ways to tell stories.

“That was very much his vision and it’s very much his vision now. I think it’s been borne out but I think it is going to continue as the pace of innovation accelerates. I’d say there is really not much. It’s been a consistent vision. Really not much.”

Commenting on his relationship with his brother Lachlan, the company’s co-executive chairperson from next month, James said, “It’s very much a partnership. We see very eye to eye on the business. It is really a question of making sure we keep our eyes on the ball, on the goal, and understand the opportunities in front of us. I think we are in reasonably good shape. The family is obviously a big shareholder in the business, so we are all really invested in each other’s success.”

Asked if Fox News’ views matched his own, James said, “I don’t let my politics get involved in my business.”

Asked whether he would one day like his own children to run the family business, James laughed and said, “My kids are really little right now. I’d just like them to pass the fifth grade.”

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