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Elisabeth Murdoch talks tough at NATPE

January 27, 2010 | 11:04 am

Like father, like daughter.

Elisabeth Murdoch, chairwoman and chief executive of Shine Group, an independent production company, delivered tough talk in a keynote address to television executives at the National Assn. of Television Program Executives conference in Las Vegas this morning.

Elisabeth Murdoch Although she acknowledged that the economy has been hard on the media industry, she said she is worried that "we all act more like a victim support group than a gathering of dynamic industry leaders." Conferences such as NATPE "are rapidly dominated by worries about falling advertising revenues, of the difficulties of recapturing the mass audience of yesteryear, or the fear that new entrants like Google and Facebook now control the agenda."

Murdoch, the daughter of News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, warned that what the industry has to come to terms with is that "no matter when the rain clouds clear, we are not going to find ourselves back in Kansas; there is no way home from Oz."

Her message was not a total downer. Although the days of five companies controlling what gets made and how people see it are gone, "we mustn't miss the forest for the trees." The key to the future, she said, is following the viewers.

"We in the television business have to catch up with what our audience is doing," she said. That means not running from social networking but embracing it as a way to drive viewers and revenue.

"Social networks are a tool with which we can tell our stories -- and like moving pictures was to radio, you can decide not to embrace social media -- but I predict that before the end of this decade to do so would be akin to resisting Technicolor." Fans, she added, "remain the best salesmen for our content."

There is money in this too, she promised.

"'The Biggest Loser' now exists as a thriving business that lives well beyond broadcast itself," she said, citing 500,000 Wii games sold around the world and subscription clubs tied to the show as well.

"We must end our traditional, one-dimensional attitude. ... We are at the start of something exciting -- a model that can lead to a new kind of commerce."

She also echoed her father's sentiments about giving away anything for free.

Sounding a lot like Rupert Murdoch, she said the industry needed to start monetizing content. "Free is so 2009," she joked.

-- Joe Flint 

Photo: Elisabeth Murdoch. Credit: Shine Group

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