The next Fox CEO says India is set for explosive internet growth

Rupert and James MurdochREUTERS/ Eddie KeoghJames Murdoch.

Soon-to-be 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch believes India is set to be the “single greatest opportunity over the next five to 10 years.”

Speaking at the Cannes Lions advertising festival, Murdoch said the country is “entrepreneurial,” there’s a “huge appetite” for media and entertainment, and “an explosion of internet growth.”

India forms Fox’s biggest business in Asia, and while Murdoch admitted it has “had its ups and downs” over the years, he said: “India is an emerging super power — an extraordinary place to do business.”

Earlier on in his session, Murdoch lauded the Indian streaming platform Hot Star as an exciting new launch from the region. Hot Star lets users watch live TV shows, cricket, and movies for free.

Murdoch was grilled on the dynamics of the family-run Fox business. First he was asked whether he and his father Rupert ever disagree on anything.

“Not much,” was the response, with Murdoch saying the “vision” from when Rupert Murdoch was acquired in the 1980s was “very clear”: To create “incredible, differentiated content.

He was then asked what happens when he and his brother Lachlan don’t agree. Lachlan is soon going to be at the helm of Fox business, becoming co-executive chairman alongside Rupert Murdoch.

James Murdoch responded: “The family is obviously a big shareholder in the business. We are very invested in each other’s success and it’s very much a partnership. We see very eye to eye on the business. It’s a question of making sure we are all keeping our eyes on the ball, and on the goal.”

That includes ensuring editorial decisions are not a reflection of the Murdoch family’s own personal opinions, with Murdoch saying, with regards to Fox News: “I don’t let my politics get involved in my business.”

Beyond Fox, Murdoch also spoke on his views around the wider media industry, and the opinions he holds that are not shared by other media companies.

He said: “In this business, I do think that not enough people are optimistic enough, and enthusiastic enough about the video business. I think actually people like to talk about old media/new media — there’s always idea of being this zero sum game.”

Murdoch said there are only a “handful of studios” that can create high quality mass market programming.

“When I hear some people in other businesses, and some of our competitors talk, they seem to be very vexed, concerned, and I think the real challenge becomes not how you can adapt to change but how you can really develop a high appetite for change,” Murdoch said. “There’s a lot of hand-wringing and not enough enthusiasm.”

The growth of video has also seen a lot of “re-bundling” in the market — the rise of Hulu and Netflix, for example, rather than the better known recent trend of “unbundling,” where cable and TV packages are broken up into smaller parts so consumers can choose particular channels.

“I think the streaming business is attractive. I think you’re going to see new bundles emerge, probably smaller in terms of the brands there, and more investment based on fewer brands, higher quality [content.] The real challenge is avoiding getting caught in the middle ground. Not being distinctive enough. Not innovating enough,” Murdoch said.

That’s part of the reason why — despite previously breaking out lots of sub-brands like Fox Reality, Fox Soccer, and so on — Fox has chosen to focus on five big, distinctive brands — Entertainment, FX, Fox Sports, Fox News, and National Geographic — Murdoch added.

Asked whether Fox might look at different types of bundling, Murdoch responded: “I think it’s too early to say,” bu that the company remains open-minded. However, “pure a la cart pricing” (where consumers pay per channel) is “super confusing for customers.”

“We know bundling will generally drive prices down, and drive consumption up,” Murdoch said.

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