Fox boss James Murdoch could be next Disney CEO in possible merger – report

 James Murdoch could be the next CEO of Disney, a report says. Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters

If companies follow through on possible Disney takeover of Fox, James and his father, Rupert, could take top jobs, Financial Times reports.

The Fox boss James Murdoch is reportedly being considered as a potential successor to Bob Iger, chief executive of Walt Disney, if the two companies reach agreement on a possible takeover.

According to the Financial Times, Rupert Murdoch and his younger son, James, could take senior roles at a combined company if a deal is struck. Iger, 66, is due to retire in 2019 and James Murdoch, 44, currently chief executive of 21st Century Fox and chairman of the satellite broadcaster Sky, is a possible successor.

Disney began holding on-and-off discussions to take over some of Fox’s major assets last month. The sale would include Fox’s movie studio, cable channels and international units – Sky and Star India. It could be worth more than $60bn and would reshape the media landscape.

But Disney is not Fox’s only suitor. Comcast, the US’s largest cable operator and owner of NBC Universal, the TV network and movie studio company, is also reported to be assessing a bid, as is Verizon, the largest US telecoms group.

Neither company was immediately available for comment. “No promises have been made,” one person briefed on the talks told the FT.

Any such deal is likely to run into trouble with shareholders who have consistently criticized the Murdochs over corporate governance. The takeover comes as their stewardship is under question following a series of sexual harassment charges at Fox. Those allegations have triggered an official inquiry by the Competition and Markets Authority in the UK into plans to buy the rest of Sky.

Iger has been Disney’s boss since 2005 and is one of the most highly rated executives in media. The company has, however, struggled to groom a successor. Disney’s chief operating officer, Tom Staggs, once seen as Iger’s top pick, resigned in 2016 after the board failed to assure him he would be Iger’s heir. More recently, Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, has been tipped as a potential hire.

The possible Fox sale comes in as the media landscape is being reshaped by the entry of new players including Apple, Amazon and Netflix. Pressure on cable subscriptions and competition for assets has set off a wave of mega-deals.

AT&T is in the midst of an $85.4bn takeover of Time Warner, but that deal is now struggling. The US justice department sued to block the deal last month, arguing that a takeover would “substantially lessen competition, resulting in higher prices and less innovation for millions of Americans”.

That deal is now heading to court, with AT&T suggesting the justice department stepped in because of Donald Trump’s open antipathy to the “fake news” he claims is being generated by Time Warner’s CNN.

Comcast, too, was heavily criticized by US officials during its ultimately successful bid for NBC Universal in 2009, and regulators appear concerned about media mergers that combine content – films and TV – with delivery – cable and satellite.

According to the FT, the Murdochs favour a deal with Disney, as they believe it poses the lowest regulatory risk. Competition from the tech giants may have strengthened arguments for the merger of content companies.

According to CNBC, which first broke the news of the discussions, Disney and Fox are now close to making an agreement and an announcement could come as early as next week.

The sale of the Murdochs’ prime media assets would leave them with control of News Corp, which owns a portfolio of newspapers – including the Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Sun.


Rupert Murdoch’s apparent willingness to sell most of 21st Century Fox to Disney suggests the media mogul’s interest in taking full control of Sky has unexpectedly diminished.

The Sky deal has proved problematic for the Murdochs since their bid was first announced last December, with the takeover facing regulatory hurdles and political opposition in the UK, with allegations of sexual harassment at Fox News being one of the reasons used to justify referring the takeover to the competition watchdog.

It had widely been considered that it was a longstanding ambition of Murdoch to take full control of Sky. The mogul has not completely controlled the company since 1990, consistently holding just 39% of the shares. He also tried to buy it in 2011, but the takeover was derailed at the last minute by the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World.

A sale to Disney of the Sky stake and the 20th Century Fox film studio would therefore represent a dramatic U-turn in strategy for the family and raise questions about their ambitions in the media industry. Rupert Murdoch has traditionally been a buyer of assets rather than a seller and, given that he is 86 years old, the Disney deal would leave a diminished family empire for his sons Lachlan and James.

As a result, some believe that talks of a sale of are exaggerated. One senior media source said the leak of the talks between Disney and Fox could be Rupert Murdoch “playing games”. They added: “This is either putting a ‘for sale’ sign up on their assets, or it is a message to Time Warner that they have a last chance to join them.”

Fox tried to buy Time Warner, the owner of Warner Brothers, HBO and CNN, in a $80bn (then £46.7bn) deal three years ago. It eventually withdrew its bid after failing to reach an agreement with Time Warner, which subsequently struck a deal with telecoms group AT&T. However, this tie-up is yet to be approved by President Trump’s administration and a story last week by the Wall Street Journal – a Murdoch newspaper – said that the government may attempt to block the transaction.

The Murdochs have long argued that scale in the media industry would be vital to compete against global technology giants such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Netflix, who are transforming TV, film and media. Their media empire is larger than many, but the 21st Century Fox business itself is just a third the size of Disney and a 10th of Amazon.

The question is whether Fox is large enough to compete in the Silicon Valley streaming-media era. In a speech at the Royal Television Society convention in Cambridge in September, James Murdoch talked again of the importance of scale, saying: “Tomorrow’s commercial media needs to be able to compete globally, and at unprecedented scale …

“Although brands that matter and diverse storytelling will remain necessary conditions, we will still need the freedom to take risks and the strength to compete that only comes from global scale.
“Scale provides the confidence to invest strategically, take risks, and support the development of new technologies and innovation – critical attributes in this dynamic period.”

That was considererd an argument as to why Fox should be allowed to buy Sky, but with hindsight it could also refer to Fox itself, given the Disney talks were already ongoing.

Fox was speaking to Disney in the last few weeks about a deal that would involve the sale of its movie studios, cable services FX and National Geographic and international assets such as Star India and as well as the 39% stake in Sky. The deal would not include Fox’s US TV network, Fox News or its sports channels .

For the Murdochs, the deal would represent a retreat in entertainment, but it would also allow them to focus on news and sport in the US, the UK and Australia. That would pave the way for the remainder of Fox to be potentially reunited with their other business, News Corp, which owns the Sun, the Times, the Wall Street Journal and the largest newspaper operation in Australia.


Barton Crockett at FBR Capital Markets said: “It would seem strange to us that Sky chairman James Murdoch would let Fox exit Sky before completing the bid to buy the 61% they don’t currently own.”

But, he added, if there was a switch from Fox to Disney, that could also make a takeover of the satellite broadcaster easier to complete: “We suppose Disney could face less regulatory scrutiny for the Sky acquisition than Fox.”

Were such a takeover to take place, it would mean that Sky and the Fox film studio would be swallowed up by the vast company behind not just the the historic Disney studio, but superhero factory Marvel, Lucasfilm, the maker of Star Wars, and the Pixar animation studio, creating a business with a market value of close to $200bn (£150bn).

Comedian and Actor Jerry Lewis Dead at 91

Jerry Lewis, the legendary actor and comedian, has died, his talent agency said Sunday. He was 91.
Lewis's agent Jeff Witjas confirmed that he died at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"He was surrounded by loved ones," added his publicist Nancy Kane, who said Lewis died Sunday morning.

The multi-faceted star became known as the funnier half of slapstick comedy duo Martin and Lewis, which he formed with singer Dean Martin. The two talents began their partnership at the legendary 500 Club in Atlantic City in 1946 before hitting the big time at New York City's Copacabana Club. 

The two — Martin the Casanova and Lewis the clown — would go on to produce a number of movies through the late 1940s and early 1950s, including "My Friend Irma," "The Caddy," "The Stooge" and "Pardners." In total, the pair made 17 movies together, all of them considered box-office hits at the time.

They even enjoyed hosting an NBC series, known as "The Colgate Comedy Hour," from 1950 to 1955. Lewis was only 24 when the show began.

However, the two split in 1956 after the release of the film "Hollywood or Bust," ending the legendary 10-year partnership. 

But the popular and ever-zany entertainer would go on to enjoy a long solo film and stage career, signing one of the most lucrative film contracts of the day — $10 million over seven years. 

Paramount also provided him complete control, a rarity at the time, allowing him to write and direct as well as act in his many hit movies through the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, including "The Nutty Professor," "The Bellboy" and "The Ladies Man."

Lewis was best known for his cross-eyed character, known as "The Idiot." A na├»ve, loose cannon who bumbled his way to victory, Lewis’s lovable loser performances would go on to influence numerous actors and comedians. 

That fool was no dummy," actor Jim Carrey wrote on Twitter. "Jerry Lewis was an undeniable genius an unfathomable blessing, comedy's absolute! I am because he was!"

He would go on to make more than 30 movies solo, though their popularity began to ebb and he became known for his crankiness and difficult nature at times.

In 1994, he took his talents to Broadway, where he landed a leading role in as the devil in "Damn Yankees," becoming the highest paid Broadway actor at the time — reportedly earning an unheard of $40,000 a week.

Yet he never strayed too far from Hollywood, continuing to star in films. His final appearance was as the title character in the 2016 drama "Max Rose."

His passion for performance was also showcased on behalf of charitable causes. Lewis was a well-known advocate for muscular dystrophy research, hosting his famous Labor Day telethons from 1966 until 2010.

The Telethons for “Jerry’s kids” are credited with raising approximately $2.5 billion for the Muscular Dystrophy Association during Lewis’s 54-year tenure as its host. The first broadcast, a 16-and-a-half hour affair in 1966, was only aired by a single New York City television station — yet it still brought in more than $1 million for the MDA.

Lewis received no pay for the event, according to the MDA, which ended the telethons five years after Lewis' departure.

Later in life, children’s issues also became a focus, which led to the advent of “Jerry’s House” — an organization that hoped to help ill, disabled, traumatized and disabled children through therapy and humor.

A number of comedians, actors and stars said they were saddened by the news and toasted the longtime star.

Overseas Film Sales Are Saving Hollywood From a Terrible Summer

Photographer: Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
By Anousha Sakoui
The duds just keep coming this summer in North America, from “The Mummy” to “Alien: Covenant” to “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” The season has been what critics politely call lackluster for Hollywood studios -- but don’t expect them to stop churning out more bombs.

That’s because as badly as so many franchise films and reboots have done in the world’s biggest cinema market, they’ve racked up solid ticket sales elsewhere. Theater-goers in America thought Paramount Pictures’ fifth “Transformers” was pretty much a yawner, but in China they liked it. And No. 6 is already in the works.

“Look at the casualties just this summer,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a Los Angeles-based analyst for ComScore Inc. “If they only had North America, it would be a monumental disaster for the studios.”

For now at least, the rest of the world -- China in particular -- is supporting Hollywood’s love affair with series, sequels and rehashes like “The Mummy,” Universal Pictures’ new take on a story that’s been told dozens of times. The risk is that sequel fatigue will set in overseas too. Chinese moviegoers are becoming more choosy, and the fastest-growing film market is slowing down. That’s a challenge for studios such as Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros., which plan and schedule movies years in advance.

Jonathan Papish, an analyst for China Film Insider, described as a “disaster” the $250 million that “Transformers: The Last Knight” is projected to record in the world’s most-populous country. The reason: the previous version from Viacom Inc.’s film division pulled in 17 percent more, “a worrisome sign for both Paramount and other Hollywood studios who have become far too complacent thinking that Chinese audiences will swallow whatever garbage they shove down their throats.”
This “Transformers” opening in China, at least, was about 30 percent bigger than the opening for the previous one, according to Box Office Mojo.

Not every sequel or franchise entry has fallen flat in North America, of course. “Wonder Woman,” Warner Bros.’ fourth episode in the DC Extended Universe series, has taken in $346 million domestically and is one of the year’s top films. Disney’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” topped the box office for two weeks and has taken in $383 million domestically.

And there are some big-hitters coming. Sony Corp.’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is expected to take in $301 million in North America after its release this weekend, according to BoxOfficePro.com. 

“War for Planet of the Apes,” out July 14 from 21st Century Fox Inc., could grab $165 million.

But the second-quarter domestic box office ended down 3.6 percent from a year ago at $2.7 billion, Barton Crockett, an analyst at FBR & Co., said in a note. He blamed disappointing sequels; even with a better-than-expected “Wonder Woman,” he predicts a 15 percent decline for the third quarter.

Chinese box-office sales fell in June, as local movies as well as Hollywood imports failed to meet expectations. This month, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC pushed back its forecast for China’s movie market to overtake the U.S. to 2021 from 2017.

This weekend, Universal’s “Despicable Me 3” will test the Chinese market, after opening in first place in 44 out of 46 countries, according to data from the film division of Comcast Corp. A new installment in another Universal series, “The Fate of the Furious,” enjoyed strong demand in China, taking in $393 million there earlier this year.

Even with big budget films flopping at home, movies can earn money for years to come from digital downloads and sales to Netflix Inc. and other streaming sites and cable-television channels. The latest -- and last -- “Pirates of the Caribbean” may have missed expectations when it came out May 26, but it could end up generating a net profit of $219 million, according to an estimate from Wade Holden, analyst with S&P Global Market Intelligence.

That hasn’t stopped some analysts from complaining that studios have focused too much on making big-budget features.

“There is an over reliance on sequels,” said Richard Greenfield, a media and technology analyst at BTIG LLC. The major studios “are so worried about investing in an unknown property that they are all just relying on sequels and hoping that sequels will save them.”

While Disney has had tremendous success, Greenfield said it’s not bullet-proof. “The danger is that investors are essentially assuming that a movie like ‘Star Wars’ will be successful forever.”

As much as any studio, Disney has tied its future to sequels and remakes. The company’s 2017 schedule includes eight films, of which six fit that profile, according to Box Office Mojo.

Disney said its strategy sets it apart from the competition -- in 2016 its film business had its most profitable year ever. Other studios trying to ape it have had less success. Sony, for example, tried and failed to refresh its 1984 hit “Ghostbusters” last year in the hope that it could spawn a new series.

In any event, many future slates are laden with new installments of existing worlds of characters. 21st Century Fox and Sony, which license Marvel characters, are planning more “X-Men” and “Spider-Man” chapters.

Disney has laid out several years worth of Marvel superhero offerings and at least a six-picture series of “Star Wars” movies. Meanwhile, the company is revisiting “Mary Poppins” and “Mulan.”

“Studios are rushing these sequels,” said Jeff Bock, senior analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co. “If you want to get the domestic audience back, you’ve got to do something a little outside the box.”

Gregg Allman, Southern Rock Pioneer, Dies at 69



US Media Publications Ranking April 2017, Drudge Report beats Google, CNN & Washington Post!



The latest SimilarWeb US Media Publications ranking is here!


April showers were not the only things falling this month as the top 100 websites received 3.9% fewer total pageviews compared to March 2017. Within the heavily concentrated upper tier there was little movement with the top five websites attracting 35% of all traffic to the top 100 in April 2017.


Notable changes in SimilarWeb Ranking

Four new websites entered the top 100 in April this year: avclub.com, jezebel.com, bostonglobe.com and theblaze.com. Correspondingly, these were the websites that left the top 100: independent.co.uk, newyorker.com, realclearpolitics.com and vogue.com.

The Drudge report came in third, beating Google, Cnn & Washington Post.


It was a good month for the Fusion Media Group as seven of its websites saw an increase in the rankings. The Onion’s sister publication, avclub.com, saw the largest increase jumping 69 positions from 119 to 50 thanks to drastic increase in engagement (pages/visit) that almost tripled compared to the previous month (174% growth in desktop pages/visit and 47% increase in mobile web pages/visit). The article named “What’s the worst movie you ever saw in the theatre?” was by far the most popular content on the website in April.


Financial news and services website thestreet.com was the second biggest winner in April moving up 17 places similarly due to increased engagement with improved pages per visit. The most search stock for the website in April was Rolls Royce.


It was also a great month for refinery29.com which closed the month 16 places higher than in March. Once again the driving force behind this increase was engagement, with the number of desktop pages per visit improving from 6.01 to 7.08. The most viewed article on the site for April was their rundown of new releases for Netflix, “Everything Coming To Netflix In May“.


Top Non-Branded Keywords

While PotUS continues to be a key draw for news sites, April was a busy month with stories about United Airlines, Bill O’Reilly and the ill-fated Fyre Festival grabbing the public’s attention. Here are the top ten non-branded keywords driving traffic to US media publications in April 2017:

  1. trump
  2. united airlines
  3. north korea
  4. donald trump
  5. syria
  6. aaron hernandez
  7. bill o’reilly
  8. fyre festival
  9. united
  10. russia

Based on the combination of desktop and website traffic in April 2017, the top 100 media publications ranking looks like this:

US Media Publications by Pageviews, April 2017


Domains Rank in April 2017 Rank in March 2017 Monthly Change Combined Pageviews
msn.com 1 1 0 1764.4 M
espn.com 2 2 0 1393.4 M
drudgereport.com 3 3 0 1248.2 M
news.google.com 4 4 0 1165.8 M
cnn.com 5 6 1 841.0 M
finance.yahoo.com 6 5 -1 827.9 M
sports.yahoo.com 7 7 0 741.4 M
foxnews.com 8 8 0 671.4 M
nytimes.com 9 9 0 538.0 M
buzzfeed.com 10 11 1 481.4 M
washingtonpost.com 11 10 -1 446.1 M
huffingtonpost.com 12 12 0 351.4 M
businessinsider.com 13 13 0 321.5 M
cnet.com 14 14 0 260.1 M
bbc.com 15 16 1 259.0 M
usatoday.com 16 15 -1 251.0 M
dailymail.co.uk 17 17 0 235.6 M
nbcnews.com 18 19 1 219.8 M
forbes.com 19 18 -1 218.2 M
news.yahoo.com 20 32 12 165.2 M
bloomberg.com 21 22 1 156.3 M
popsugar.com 22 28 6 144.3 M
sfgate.com 23 26 3 142.1 M
pitchfork.com 24 25 1 139.0 M
politico.com 25 21 -4 131.0 M
ksl.com 26 33 7 129.8 M
nydailynews.com 27 30 3 123.3 M
seekingalpha.com 28 24 -4 118.7 M
cbssports.com 29 20 -9 118.6 M
liveleak.com 30 38 8 118.2 M
theguardian.com 31 27 -4 116.4 M
cbsnews.com 32 31 -1 114.6 M
nypost.com 33 34 1 113.2 M
breitbart.com 34 23 -11 110.8 M
people.com 35 37 2 107.3 M
npr.org 36 29 -7 107.1 M
tmz.com 37 40 3 106.9 M
abcnews.go.com 38 39 1 104.4 M
gizmodo.com 39 43 4 98.3 M
wsj.com 40 35 -5 97.9 M
latimes.com 41 44 3 93.1 M
usnews.com 42 42 0 92.9 M
centurylink.net 43 45 2 91.6 M
slate.com 44 41 -3 83.2 M
bleacherreport.com 45 52 7 80.6 M
reuters.com 46 49 3 80.6 M
cnbc.com 47 36 -11 79.1 M
rollingstone.com 48 48 0 77.6 M
marketwatch.com 49 47 -2 74.9 M
avclub.com 50 119 69 73.8 M
lifehacker.com 51 55 4 72.2 M
thehill.com 52 46 -6 71.8 M
espncricinfo.com 53 68 15 69.7 M
pcmag.com 54 69 15 67.9 M
complex.com 55 63 8 67.1 M
zerohedge.com 56 53 -3 66.4 M
wenxuecity.com 57 50 -7 65.1 M
telegraph.co.uk 58 64 6 65.0 M
delish.com 59 56 -3 62.8 M
refinery29.com 60 76 16 61.1 M
chron.com 61 59 -2 61.0 M
cracked.com 62 60 -2 60.3 M
dailykos.com 63 51 -12 59.6 M
mashable.com 64 54 -10 59.4 M
nbcsports.com 65 67 2 59.4 M
thechive.com  66 62 -4 58.5 M
thedailybeast.com 67 58 -9 58.2 M
thestreet.com 68 85 17 53.7 M
chicagotribune.com 69 79 10 53.6 M
caranddriver.com 70 70 0 53.6 M
bbc.co.uk 71 80 9 53.3 M
tomshardware.com 72 73 1 53.0 M
littlethings.com 73 77 4 52.4 M
rotoworld.com 74 66 -8 52.4 M
arstechnica.com 75 91 16 52.1 M
deadspin.com 76 90 14 52.1 M
time.com 77 78 1 51.8 M
theatlantic.com 78 75 -3 51.8 M
msnbc.com 79 57 -22 51.3 M
foxsports.com 80 74 -6 50.2 M
scout.com 81 72 -9 49.9 M
rawstory.com 82 81 -1 48.7 M
jalopnik.com 83 98 15 48.4 M
wired.com 84 71 -13 48.4 M
digitaltrends.com 85 83 -2 48.3 M
hollywoodreporter.com 86 89 3 48.2 M
si.com 87 65 -22 46.7 M
nationalgeographic.com 88 84 -4 46.5 M
theverge.com 89 97 8 46.4 M
univision.com 90 82 -8 46.3 M
ibtimes.co.uk 91 61 -30 45.5 M
health.com 92 94 2 44.1 M
bhg.com 93 95 2 43.0 M
eonline.com 94 93 -1 42.9 M
jezebel.com 95 103 8 42.8 M
vice.com 96 88 -8 42.6 M
kotaku.com 97 99 2 42.3 M
tomsguide.com 98 96 -2 42.0 M
bostonglobe.com 99 107 8 41.6 M
theblaze.com 100 102 2 41.0 M