News

Murdoch Eyes PPV on Hulu

9/19/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch opened the door last week to possible pay services from Hulu, while a partner that online video venture — NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker — said there were no plans to move beyond ad revenue at Hulu for now at least.

Murdoch and Zucker spoke at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference last Tuesday and made hopeful sounds about Hulu and about the advertising market in general.

“Are we looking at it with a view toward adding subscription services and pay-per-view? Yes we are,” Murdoch said of the Hulu venture. “No decisions have been made yet.”

Zucker said that all media companies, including NBCU, are looking for ways to extract more revenue from online content.

He also poked fun at his own comment earlier this year that companies were spending analog dollars to chase “digital dimes.”

Said Zucker: “Certainly by next year the goal should be at least quarters.” It’s too early to tell how that goal will be achieved, he added.

“I don’t think anyone predicted we would be this far along after 18 months,” Zucker said of Hulu. “We are ahead of plan and we have more than 200 advertisers at Hulu.”

He said the venture partners — which also include The Walt Disney Co. — “are going to continue to be as innovative as anyone on monetization of the ad-supported model, that’s really where our focus is today.”

Whether there are “other ways to monetize Hulu down the road, it is something that we are open to, something we will explore,” Zucker said, “but there are no plans at this time.”

Murdoch said the dismal ad market might be turning up.

“A couple of months ago, I was daring enough to say that I felt we hit bottom,” the Australian-born media magnate said. “We certainly feel that very strongly at the moment, particularly in the last few weeks.”

“There has been plenty of advertising activity at the cable channels,” Murdoch said. “Film is doing very well. We’re well ahead of last year.”

Even Fox Broadcasting is showing some improvement. Murdoch said CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) are down less than 1% in the upfront. Its station group, which News expects to be down about 20% to 30% for the fiscal year, has shown improvement every month.

September is showing further signs of improvements, off about 8% from a year ago, which is a marked improvement over double-digit declines of past months.

“It’s been a very uncomfortable ride from last November through as recently as July,” Murdoch said. “We’re starting to see a little movement. My guess is that the consensus is about right — we’re going to get a nice bump and then it will settle down to a fairly slow recovery.”

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