News Corp. COO Chase Carey knows how to play hardball
In Chase Carey’s first stint at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., he was instrumental in reinventing Fox and turning it into a credible contender against the big three networks.
For his encore, he wants to reinvent the media business.
Since leaving satellite broadcaster DirecTV almost two years ago to succeed Peter Chernin as the No. 2 at News Corp. under Murdoch, Carey has moved quickly to wrangle new sources of revenue for the media giant that owns broadcast and cable networks, newspapers, a movie studio and MySpace.
At the same time, Carey has pulled News Corp. back from placing big, costly bets on the digital future. Instead, he has adopted a cautious approach in weighing how to get the company’s news, movies and TV shows in front of new audiences — and ensuring the company is paid for it.
The moves signal a new, pragmatic, show-me-the-money mantra from Carey as he exerts his influence under Murdoch at a company matched in the public’s mind with Fox News and episodes of “Glee.” As president and chief operating officer, Carey is responsible for overseeing $33 billion in revenue. With a 2010 pay packaged that was valued at $26 million, Carey is mostly likely to succeed Murdoch as chief executive officer should the octogenerian mogul step back before his heirs are ready to take the reigns.
If Carey’s efforts have a common theme, it’s Everyone Pays. As digital delivery wreaks havoc on News Corp.’s advertising business, the company must try to derive more of its revenues from subscription payments, whether at the wholesale level from cable TV operators or local TV stations or at the retail level from individuals paying for iPad “newspaper” subscriptions.
In one provocative instance, he strong-armed local cable system operators, including Time Warner Cable, into paying cash to carry Fox-owned television stations, including KTTV-TV in Los Angeles. Previously, broadcast networks such as Fox were content to forgo cash payments in exchange for channel space to launch cable channels, an arrangement that saved cable operators money.
Carey, who sports a Snidely Whiplash mustache and favors sack suits, excelled at rugby during college and isn’t afraid to play rough to get what he wants. Last October, after an impasse in negotiations, he ordered Fox to pull its programming from Cablevision’s New York area cable TV systems — during the World Series — until the operator said "uncle" and acceded to the network’s payment demands.
“Chase is willing to break a little furniture if necessary to get people’s attention,” observed John Hane, a communications lawyer with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman whose clients include Fox affiliates. “Nobody else has moved the needle as much as he has,” Hane said, adding he questions “if there weren’t more constructive ways to do it.”
A native New Yorker, associates say that Carey’s idea of the perfect night is a six-pack and a Yankees game. Unlike Chernin, who enjoyed the glitz of the entertainment industry, Carey ducks the limelight and seldom pops up on the fundraiser and award show circuit.
“His favorite beverage is Budweiser,” said David Hill, the chairman of Fox Sports. “I’ve said, ‘Have a red wine, it’s embarrassing, we’re in a good restaurant, people will think we’re civilized.’ "
His just-one-of-the-guys persona, according to colleagues, also helps Carey to navigate the outsized egos of those who ascend to high-profile posts at News Corp., whether they are executives who attract controversy, on-screen talent with nearly messianic followers or Murdoch family members with a sense of entitlement.
— Joe Flint and Dawn C. Chmielewski
To read more about Chase Carey and his push to create revenue streams for News Corp., see the article in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times.
Photo: Chase Carey. Credit: Matthew Staver / Bloomberg News.