Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch On Tom Brady, Hollywood’s Covid Protocols And “Bloodbath In The SVOD Market”

Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch said seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady will be much more than a Sunday night analyst for Fox Sports but a partner after inking a deal said to be worth $375 million over ten years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback.

“The important thing with Tom, what got me really engaged and excited about the opportunity, is that in addition to being a senior analyst on Sundays, he will be our partner in sports. An ambassador for Fox. Working with advertisers and clients. Engaged in the marketing. He will be a tremendous analyst and a partner of ours,” Murdoch said during a long Q&A at the MoffettNathanson media conference. (Fox has disputed the Brady price tag, which was reported in its own New York Post, saying it’s “not an accurate reflection of the deal.”)

Brady starts whenever he retires. In remarks at the Fox upfront presentation Monday he gave a strong hint, saying he was looking forward to joining the Fox team for Super Bowl 57.

Murdoch also indicated he’d like less restrictive Covid protocols for production, which he said were behind a $30 million write-down on scripted programming that squeezed earnings last quarter as Covid production delays. “It was a prudent write-down, but related to Covid-delayed production schedules. I should say, we are operating with Covid protocols designed at the height of the pandemic, before vaccinations, with potentially stronger strains of Covid-19. They were absolutely the right protocols to put in place. But we are still operating with them now and it does cause tremendous disruptions when someone gets sick.”

“Hopefully that changes,” he said.

On the shifting streaming landscape, the owner of ad-supported Tubi is “happily on the sidelines watching this bloodbath in the SVOD market.”

Netflix lost subscribers last quarter and said it’s preparing to launch an ad-supported offering, following news that Disney will do the same. Murdoch believes Fox is already ahead of the game because “we haven’t had to artificially keep a loss-making SVOD service.” Asked if he’s concerned about increased competition for streaming ad dollars, he said no, because, “We are not confusing the consumer message with differing tiers.”

Jumping to juggernaut Fox News, Murdoch was asked if the network sees any “advertiser hesitancy due to some of the content in primetime” – a veiled reference to controversial hosts led by the network’s biggest ratings draw, Tucker Carlson. Murdoch noted that  advertising has grown but focused on a rebrand to Fox Media a few years ago – which includes Fox Digital, an audio/podcast business, newly launched book business and Fox Weather — all producing new revenue streams.

“We are not only in the news business,” he said. “And when you talk to our fans in middle America, people who are heavy Fox News viewers, they don’t see us as a news business either, they see as an American media brand.” He didn’t mention Carlson — Fox executives rarely do publicly — but gave a shoutout to Jesse Watters, The Five and Greg Gutfeld (Gutfeld!).

As upfront presentations continue this week, he touted the Fox lineup in sports with Super Bowl LVII and the FIFA World Cup and NFL. Advertising will also get a big bump from midterm elections expected to set a spending record.

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