Rupert Murdoch's media legacy takes a U-turn

When Peter Chernin was running Twentieth Century Fox, he was asked at an industry conference how he saw the company's...

Posted: Dec 14, 2017 4:38 PM
Updated: Dec 14, 2017 4:38 PM

When Peter Chernin was running Twentieth Century Fox, he was asked at an industry conference how he saw the company's future. "A lot of Murdochs," he quipped.

Indeed, mogul Rupert Murdoch has always run his companies not only with a buccaneering style, but a clear eye on handing to his children the reins of the huge conglomerates he created out of the newspaper that he inherited. In 2015, he passed the baton of daily stewardship OF 21st Century Fox to his sons, James and Lachlan.

Now, however, with the decision to sell much of 21st Century Fox to the Walt Disney Co., Murdoch -- who has cut such a wide path through the entertainment industry -- has left his heirs a considerably smaller legacy.

Murdoch reshaped the TV business in a number of key ways, almost always through audacious moves. He established a fourth broadcast network in the mid-1980s, launched Fox News a decade later, and in between nabbed sports rights and top affiliates from the major networks in industry-shaking deals that severed longstanding relationships, before changing the playbook in terms of how sports is presented.

Fox also advanced what many critics saw as a race to the content bottom, stooping to conquer with everything from tabloid magazines like "A Current Affair" to boundary-pushing reality-TV shows like "When Animals Attack" to, yes, Fox News.

At the same time, the executives working under Murdoch were often empowered to take risks that led to major breakthroughs. The film division bet on "Titanic" and "Avatar," and director James Cameron rewarded those gambles with record-breaking blockbusters. Capitalizing on Marvel's past financial woes, Fox wound up with rights to "X-Men" and "Fantastic Four," fumbling with film versions of the latter, but turning the former into a major movie staple.

Related: Disney buys 21st Century Fox: Who gets what

Yes, Fox could plumb the depths in TV, but it also gave the world "The Simpsons," "American Idol" and "The X-Files," as well as "Glee" and "This is Us" (which Fox's studio produces for NBC). Starting with "The Shield" and continuing on to critical darlings like "The Americans" and "The People v. O.J. Simpson," has repeatedly helped demonstrate that basic cable could match premium networks in ambition and prestige.

It's those content assets that Disney coveted -- they can dramatically increase its leverage in dealing with distributors and in establishing its own direct pipelines into the home -- and that the Murdochs are, surprisingly, giving up. "Surprisingly" because the deal reflects a dramatic U-turn, as the Murdochs are pivoting from trying to dramatically expand Fox through its failed 2014 acquisition bid for Time Warner to shrinking and dividing it.

Rupert Murdoch watchers have long noted that his heart has always belonged to his other media properties -- to Fox News and his newspapers -- more than the entertainment units. "There is ink in his veins," former Murdoch editor Andrew Neil testified during a hearing about Fox's proposed acquisition of the Sky TV service in London. "He is never happier than when he is spending time with journalists."

Associates and biographers also cite Murdoch's love of gossip and willingness to use those platforms to advance his own political and business objectives while punishing rivals.

Citing that dynamic almost 20 years ago, the late Don Ohlmeyer, then NBC's president, told the Columbia Journalism Review, "Until the rest of the media decide to take a hard look at Rupert's empire the way his media look at other people's empires, he's won."

Murdoch has enjoyed more than his share of historic victories, to be sure. But the empire he spent decades building just became a whole lot smaller, a shocking twist -- worthy of one of Fox's soaps -- for a major corporation that the mogul seemed determined to run like a mom-and-pop store.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 320174

Reported Deaths: 7390
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22294271
Hinds20755424
Harrison18450317
Rankin13923282
Jackson13733249
Madison10273225
Lee10063176
Jones8473167
Forrest7837153
Lauderdale7263242
Lowndes6523150
Lamar636288
Lafayette6314121
Washington5427138
Bolivar4841133
Panola4671110
Oktibbeha466398
Pearl River4606148
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425973
Monroe4162136
Union415877
Neshoba4065180
Lincoln4009113
Hancock387687
Leflore3516125
Tate342586
Sunflower339491
Pike3373111
Alcorn327474
Scott320374
Yazoo314571
Adams308486
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma299084
Simpson298689
Tippah292268
Prentiss284261
Leake272374
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264842
Grenada264087
George252451
Newton249064
Tishomingo232369
Winston230282
Jasper222148
Attala215173
Chickasaw210659
Holmes190574
Stone188733
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174232
Yalobusha167940
Smith164134
Walthall135447
Greene131834
Lawrence131224
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127538
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108334
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96729
Franklin85023
Quitman82316
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66328
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 549013

Reported Deaths: 11311
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810461571
Mobile42145831
Madison35718525
Tuscaloosa26179458
Shelby25626254
Montgomery25089614
Baldwin21901314
Lee16287176
Calhoun14724327
Morgan14639285
Etowah14183364
Marshall12454230
Houston10791287
Elmore10301214
Limestone10188157
St. Clair10161251
Cullman9958201
Lauderdale9612250
DeKalb8977190
Talladega8462184
Walker7341280
Autauga7242113
Jackson6953113
Blount6950139
Colbert6415140
Coffee5638127
Dale4930116
Russell454941
Chilton4478116
Franklin431782
Covington4279122
Tallapoosa4144155
Escambia401880
Chambers3728124
Dallas3610158
Clarke353161
Marion3245107
Pike314578
Lawrence3134100
Winston283572
Bibb268564
Geneva258481
Marengo250665
Pickens237062
Barbour234559
Hale227178
Butler224671
Fayette218962
Henry194443
Randolph187644
Cherokee187345
Monroe180641
Washington170739
Macon163051
Clay160159
Crenshaw156357
Cleburne153644
Lamar146937
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124542
Conecuh113630
Coosa111629
Perry108626
Sumter105832
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 84°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
83° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 85°
Oxford
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 82°
Starkville
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 81°
High pressure still tries to hang on to our area on Thursday, however a weak warm front will change the dominance of high pressure. This weak cold front will give us a chance for some isolated showers and thunderstorms at times.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather