Chernin: News Corp., Liberty Still Talking


New York -- News Corp. president and chief operating officer Peter Chernin said talks between the media giant and Liberty Media regarding the potential swap of News Corp.’s controlling interest in DirecTV Group are ongoing, but he would not let those negotiations drag on for an extended period of time.

Chernin, speaking at the UBS Global Media & Communications conference here Monday, nevertheless said he was optimistic that a deal could be done to recapture the voting stake from Liberty.

“It’s no secret we have been in discussions,” Chernin said at the conference. “We remain optimistic about our ability to get something done.”

But Chernin said that News Corp. is also optimistic about DirecTV’s future, and the company would not be prepared to let those discussions drag on so long that it would begin to affect DirecTV’s business.

“If we felt that this was having an impact on the operations of the business, I think we would cut off discussions immediately,” he added.

Chernin declined to say how long that would be.

Asked if News Corp. has changed its stance on DirecTV -- that the U.S. direct-broadcast satellite giant is no longer critical to its overall strategic view -- Chernin said DirecTV is still an important part of News Corp.’s asset mix. However, he added that the discussions with Liberty probably wouldn’t be taking place if the media giant thought DirecTV was indispensable.

“We wouldn’t be willing to have these discussions if we didn’t think there were benefits to having a mix that didn’t include DirecTV,” Chernin said at the conference.

Earlier, Chernin said DirecTV management, including CEO Chase Carey, is working hard on developing a broadband product for the satellite operator. DirecTV has been talking about a broadband play for more than one year, and it had said in the past that it expected to come up with a broadband product by the end of this year. That, Chernin said, is not likely to happen that soon.

“Chase and his team have been working hard on analyzing the various opportunities and what the ideal situation is for a broadband play,” he added. “He asks questions that he wants answered. He hasn’t felt comfortable with the answers.”