News Corp.'s Carey told New Canaan audience: 'local, local, local'
Explosive changes in the media industry and how they'll affect the future served as the basis for a talk by an insider who has been at the heart of the business for decades.
At New Canaan Library, around 100 people came out Sunday afternoon, May 5, to hear New Canaan resident Chase Carey, president and chief operating officer of News Corp. give a presentation called "Managing Businesses in an Increasingly Volatile and Complex World."
Carey told about the trials and tribulations of helping expand News Corp. -- Rupert Murdoch's multibillion-dollar conglomerate -- and reminisced a bit about growing up in New Canaan.
He voiced his support for the politics of Fox News.
"I very much endorse Fox News," he said, speaking favorably of Roger Ailes, the channel's president.
"Fox News is obviously speaking to a large part of the American public that values its views," he said. "I actually think its news coverage is fair and balanced."
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Carey also spoke well of Murdoch, whom he described as having "never met a man he didn't like."
Fielding questions about Murdoch's corporate heir, he said, "I think Rupert's going to outlast all his kids ... He works seven days a week ... (but) Rupert is quite clear. The decision on his successor will be the board's ... should that day come."
A 1972 graduate of New Canaan High School, Carey returned home in 2000 with his wife, Wendy, and their two children.
"I grew up in this town and spent many years in this library," he said.
He started his media career at Columbia Pictures, then joined News Corp. in 1988. In 2003, he went to become president and CEO of DIRECTV, then returned to News Corp. in 2003.
"It's been a fascinating ride to be part of this company," he said, sharing a brief history.
He also shared how his company had the chance to buy ESPN for $300 million, but passed. That company, he said, is now valued at $40 to $50 billion.
"We weren't much of a network to start with," he said of Fox, but gradually it built itself through some particular success stories.
"That little series `The Simpsons' will begin its 25th year and will end up being the longest running and most profitable TV series in television history," he said.
He noted how significant it was to sign coverage of the National Football League, which at the time cost $400 million a year for the rights.
"When I entered the industry over 30 years ago at Columbia pictures," he said, "cable was in its infancy ... Newspapers were still a foundation of daily life for most people ... Media was essentially an advertising-driven industry. A lot of media executives today long for those days."
He continued, "The fragmentation is making competition brutal and sometimes unpredictable. Consumers are no longer captive, and with their new power of demanding to watch what they want, when they want, where they want," the demand has shifted to more and more local product.
"The real key to success (is) to increasing local operation ... Content is increasingly local," he said.
He said that one of the challenges his industry faced was regulators -- especially in the United States -- putting up "hurdles" in the industry, but he said they're not able to keep up with changes in the business because it's moving so quickly.
"With all these dynamics, what you've got is a state of constant disruption," he said.
"It's critical that we continue to be opportunistic," he said. "The competition will get more intense and the stakes will get larger ... The list of issues the media industry faces today is enormous."
David Calhoun, CEO of Nielsen and a personal friend of Carey's, said he was "by reputation, across the industry, one of the greatest guys in the world."
"I've seen Chase excel in a business world and I've seen their family excel in the personal world," he said.
Calhoun said the media industry was one of the last to "make a big move into the global world," but News Corp. was a leader.
"They are bold," he said. "They do big things (and) Chase has been in it from the beginning."
"It's a little different," Carey said of speaking before a hometown crowd. "Usually, it's just a bunch of Wall Street guys who want to know your profit numbers. It's a nice change of pace."
Jarret Liotta is a freelance writer.