Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Lachlan Murdoch Expresses Confidence In Fox News

Fox Corp. Chief Executive Lachlan Murdoch has expressed confidence that Fox News’ mix of news and center-right opinion would prevail and told investors the ratings slump was expected once Donald Trump left office, pointing to similar slides at CNN and MSNBC after Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, reports Forbes. 

“We believe where we’re targeted, to the center right, is exactly where we should be targeted,” Murdoch said on a call Tuesday with Wall Street analysts to discuss the company’s second-quarter results. “It’s where we’ve been. We don’t need to go further right. We don’t believe America is further right.” 

Lachlan Murdoch
Murdoch, 49, has led the media company formed in 2019 after Disney acquired large swaths of the media empire built by his father, billionaire Rupert Murdoch, 89, in a $71 billion deal that left him with oversight of the Fox broadcasting network, its local stations and Fox News Media. 

Fox has revamped its programming lineup in the post-Trump era to lean more heavily on commentary, which draws larger audiences. It moved Martha MacCallum out of the 7 p.m. Eastern time slot to make way for an opinion show called Fox News Primetime with a rotating roster of hosts. Last week, it canceled Lou Dobbs Tonight. The 75-year-old commentator, a staunch supporter of Trump and his claims of election fraud, was one of three hosts named in a defamation suit against Fox News brought by election technology company Smartmatic. The $2.7 billion lawsuit claims the hosts had damaged the company’s business by perpetuating false claims about its role in the 2020 election. Fox has asked a judge to dismiss the suit, claiming it was intended to muzzle legitimate commentary on “a hotly contested and actively litigated election.”

All of these post-election changes set the stage for the results announced Tuesday. Fox News has traditionally been the single biggest driver of the company’s performance, contributing one-quarter of its advertising revenue and 39% of affiliate fees in fiscal 2020, according to research firm MoffettNathanson estimates. 

Fox Corp.’s second-quarter profit fell despite record political advertising at Fox News and its local stations, particularly the Fox station in Atlanta, which reaped a $60 million windfall in political revenue as it covered the high-stakes Senate runoff election and its national and regional implications. 

Murdoch acknowledged the extensive coverage of Fox and the threat it faces from smaller, right-leaning competitors, noting, “there will be a few more trees cut down about it in the days and weeks to come.” But he predicted a return to ratings dominance, as Fox relied on the formula that has worked so reliably in the past: providing news and opinion for a center-right audience.

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