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Murdoch: Fall launch for business channel

Rupert Murdoch said Thursday that a business news channel his media company News Corp. plans to launch in the fall will be more “business-friendly” than its rival CNBC.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Rupert Murdoch said Thursday that a business news channel his media company News Corp. plans to launch in the fall will be more “business-friendly” than its rival CNBC.

Speaking at a media and technology conference in New York, Murdoch said there would be more details on the long-awaited channel announced soon. He said there was a “great opportunity” there.

The project has been in the works for several years, and the company has said it would only get launched if enough distribution were in place. Recently the company signed up Time Warner Cable, a division of Time Warner Inc. that is the second-largest cable provider in the country.

Murdoch, speaking in a question-and-answer session with Steve Adler, the editor of Business Week magazine, said the new Fox business channel would be friendlier to the business world than CNBC, which is a unit of General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal.

“They leap on every scandal,” he said.

(MSNBC.com is a Microsoft-NBC Universal joint venture.)

Murdoch also said News Corp. was seeing rapid growth from its MySpace unit, the leading social networking site on the Internet, where advertising revenues were growing about 30 percent every quarter.

Murdoch also said he hoped to see revenues from online-only businesses at News Corp. such as MySpace to make up about 10 percent of the company’s revenues in the next five years or so.

He didn’t provide a comparable figure for current online revenues, but on Wednesday News Corp. reported as part of its earnings release that revenues from its Fox Interactive Media unit, comprised mainly of MySpace, had grown to $125 million in the three months ending in December, which would be around 1.5 percent of the company’s overall revenues.

Murdoch also said he saw big opportunities for expanding overseas as well in mobile devices such as cell phones. He said that a new deal to deliver MySpace to subscribers of Cingular Wireless, now part of AT&T Inc., had already signed up about 200,000 customers in 7 weeks. News Corp. shares revenues from the service, which costs users $3 per month.

On the matter of succession — a question that comes up regularly for the 75-year-old media mogul — Murdoch quipped: “I just want to live forever,” then demurred, saying it was up to the company’s board of directors.

Murdoch, who recently distributed $100 million in News Corp. stock to each of his six children, has said he hopes to keep control of the company within his family, but he declined to go into greater detail Thursday.

The Murdoch family will control about 40 percent of News Corp.’s shareholder vote once a deal is complete to swap the company’s stake in DirecTV Group Inc. for a 16 percent stake in News Corp. owned by Liberty Media Corp.

Speculation has recently centered on Murdoch’s 34-year-old son James, who is CEO of British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC, a satellite broadcasting company in which News Corp. owns a stake of about 38 percent.

However Murdoch said it was too early to say whether James would succeed him, noting that there are other very capable family members. In 2005 his son Lachlan, now 35, left the company and moved to Australia, though he remains on the board.