News Corp has no plans to pull its television shows from iTunes like NBC Universal, but echoed the media industry’s calls for Apple to offer more flexible pricing, a top executive said in an interview on Tuesday.
Many sector watchers expected News Corp and other media groups to follow NBC Universal, which said last month it would not renew a deal to sell shows on iTunes because it wanted more flexibility in offering different packages and pricing.
But Peter Chernin, News Corp’s president and chief operating officer, said Rupert Murdoch’s media group was not in a dispute with Apple, though it would like a bigger voice in pricing its shows.
“Right now we have a perfectly good relationship with Apple,” Chernin told Reuters. “But let me say this, we’re the ones who should determine what the fair price for our product is, not Apple.”
Chernin’s decision to keep popular Fox shows such as "24" and "Prison Break" on iTunes should be welcomed by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who is facing a growing revolt by some media companies over the pricing policies for audio and video downloads.
(MSNBC.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal News.)
Earlier this summer, Vivendi’s Universal Music Group declined to sign a long-term deal, leaving open the possibility of exclusive deals with another services.
An NBC Universal spokesman said it agreed with Chernin. ”Without question, content companies should set the wholesale price for the content they create,” he said.
Chernin spoke with Reuters during his visit to Poland, one of Europe’s fastest-growing media markets, where News Corp is about to relaunch a television channel in which it has a 35 percent stake and managerial control.
“This is a market with tremendous opportunity for us,” he said. “This is where News Corp tends to thrive. You have a reasonably entrenched competition that hasn’t been challenged as much as it should.”
Chernin declined to say how much News Corp. would invest to modernize Puls, which he expects to become a market leader. Murdoch said earlier this year it had spent $50 million so far.
While blockbuster deals to buy Dow Jones and social networking site MySpace have dominated the headlines, News Corp also has been building its TV presence in Europe’s emerging markets.
In Turkey, the media conglomerate is considering a bid for broadcaster ATV and Sabah newspaper, which is expected to fetch at least $1.1 billion.
ATV and Sabah along with other media assets are set to go on sale in November after being seized from Turkish conglomerate Ciner Group by the state Savings Deposits Insurance Fund (TMSF) for alleged irregularities.
“We will certainly take a look at it ... Whether or not we will do this (bid), we will decide within a month or so,” Chernin said.
Chernin, who oversees the operations of News Corp’s top social networking site MySpace, also does not expect its fast-growing rival Facebook to be put up for sale any time soon.
Facebook, headed by 23-year-old founder Mark Zuckerberg, has been steadily gaining ground on MySpace, prompting speculation that News Corp. may be interested in combining the two sites.
“I think Mark Zuckerberg is doing just fine. I don’t think he has any intention of selling it, IPO’ing it or anything else,” Chernin said.
Chernin also denied holding talks with Yahoo about capital ties, despite Murdoch’s comments that he would consider swapping MySpace for a 25 percent stake in Yahoo.