While the ad market slowed down a bit as the end of 2011 approached, News Corp. COO Chase Carey said he's seeing signs the beginning of next year could be better.
"We're starting to get a little past the end of the calendar year and I'd say it feels like you can actual start to see signs that there is some fresh money," Carey said at the UBS Media and Communications investor conference in New York Wednesday. "As you get into the new year, there may be a bit of renewed energy as people close out a year and go into a new year."
Carey said that while the market appeared to soften a bit in the fourth quarter, "it's still a good ad market." For the Fox Broadcast Network, Carey said a strategic decision to sell more ads during the upfront rather than push for the highest possible price.
"We went through the recent cancellations pretty much right in line with what historically we'd see, so minimal cancelations," he said. "So we've got a good base, the network's got great momentum on the ratings side."
Carey's remarks about the ad market being a big soft in the fourth quarter but possibly firming up in the first quarter aligned with similar comments from Philippe Dauman, CEO of Viacom, and Jeff Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner.
Carey was asked about reports that Fox, CBS and NBC were all close to signing new eight-year billion-dollars agreements with the National Football League that called for increases of about 60%, and how network profits would be affected.
"The NFL is a fabulous franchise. We've been in business with the NFL for almost 20 years. its value in the marketplace is truly unique in an increasingly fragmented world," Carey said. He added that ad sales for the NFL continue to have "incredible strength" and that Fox's goal is to continue to have the league as a centerpiece of what it does.
But he acknowledged that the cost of the NFL "makes you swallow hard," calling sports programming "the ultimate doubled edged sword" because of the cost associated with such highly-rated programming.
Carey also said that News Corp. and its partners decided not to sell web video site Hulu because while a partnership is always hard to manage "the importance of having a leadership position in the digital space . . . dwarfed the values that were being put on it." Carey praised Hulu's management and said News Corp. wants it to grow.