News Corp. formed a new division to house several of its cable networks, and named Fox Sports Networks president Jeff Shell president and CEO of the new entity, Fox Cable Networks.
Shell will oversee News Corp.'s wholly owned and partial interests in FX, Fox Movie Channel, The Health Network and National Geographic Channel. Shell said National Geographic-tentatively set to launch in November-has carriage commitments for at least 25 million subscribers.
With the new division, announced last Thursday, News Corp. is essentially taking the channels that were formerly under the Fox Channels Group umbrella-which never had a president-and appointing Shell to oversee them.
"Having it all report under one person simplifies the internal reporting structure in the company," said Shell, who will report to News Corp. president Peter Chernin and co-chief operating officer Chase Carey.
Fox News Channel CEO Roger Ailes and Fox Sports Television CEO David Hill will continue to report to Fox Entertainment Group, but Shell said he will work with Fox News and Fox Sports executives to help sell their cable channels.
A new Fox Sports Networks president will be named "imminently," Shell said, adding that an executive from within the division will be promoted to succeed him.
Shell said he will also work with Fox television stations to strike retransmission-consent deals with cable operators. The company will package retransmission-consent deals with cable-network-carriage agreements only on a "case-by-case basis," Shell said, noting that the company has deals in place with most operators for at least three years.
Looking down the road, Shell said, he will work with various News Corp. divisions to offer cable operators and satellite providers packages that would include cable-channel distribution and broadband Internet content.
"I think over the next three to five years, we're going to go through a sea change in the industry," Shell said. "It's going to be less about selling channels to operators and more about working with operators as partners in delivering content to them, whether it's broadband, or whether it's more digital services, or whether its pay-per-view."
Shell was named head of new-business development at Fox Television in 1994. In 1996, he was named chief financial officer of Fox/Liberty Networks.
He was named president of Fox Sports Networks last June, after News Corp. bought Liberty Media Group's 50 percent stake in Fox/Liberty.