'Sydney Morning Herald' [9/10/1999]
It is a solid hour of Rupert vision. A priceless peak at Murdoch's millennium. A rare glimpse of the 21st Century fox.
And the audience is suitably captivated.
It is no mean feat, for this is no ordinary audience. Wedged into the ballroom of New York's Grand Hyatt Hotel, pin-striped shoulder to pin-striped shoulder, are 500 of the world's highest-powered media brokers, stock analysts and investment bankers.
They have brushed off the opening bells down on Wall Street for the chance to take in a rare sermon from the Count of Media, Rupert Murdoch. The Australian-born mogul has agreed to be key note speaker on the final day of Goldman Sachs' annual media conference and these seats in the bursting auditorium are New York's most valued investment commodities of the day.
It is the sort of audience that could add a lazy few million dollars to the value of a company with the single tap of a computer key. Or carve off a few million as easily as slicing through their morning bagels.
It is the first time Murdoch has agreed to speak to them in six years and his theme appears to be "accretion". Translated, that means growth - "sustainable", "long-term", "dependable". It all means "money".
The brokers want to hear about the future of this accretion, about News Corp 2000, what this enigmatic, adventurous, unorthodox tycoon sees beyond the dazzling dawn of the digital age. His vision is pure, unadulterated, wall-to-wall, 24-hour Murdochia.
"Our view is that the successful media company of the future is one that will touch consumers' lives throughout the day, in every phase of their lives," he says. "We have structured our company to meet those needs. We are reaching people from the moment they wake up until they fall asleep.
"We give them their morning weather and traffic reports through our television outlets around the world. We enlighten and entertain them with such newspapers as The New York Post and The Times in London over breakfast or as they take the train to work.
"We update their stock prices and give them the world's biggest news stories every day through such news channels as Fox or Sky News and their companion Internet sites . . . When they get home in the evening, we entertain them with compelling, first-run entertainment on Fox or the day's biggest game on our broadcast, satellite and cable networks, or the best movies from 20th Century Fox Films, if they want to see a first-run movie.
"Before they go to bed, we give them the latest news. Then, hopefully, they can fall in to bed with one of our hundreds of new titles published every year through HarperCollins."
And that's just the beginning. Murdoch sees the digital age, with its satellite services and cable services and broadband, interactive, multi-service services, as redefining the meaning of mass media. Diversity? Sure thing. How would you like your Rupert vision? Television? Newspaper? Film? Video? Internet? Telephone? Analog? Digital? Fox? Star? Sky? Soccer? Gridiron? Rugby League - oh, well, he's still working on that.
The big news, so one investment banker in the audience confides, is the strategic alliance between Murdoch's TV Guide business and Gemstar International Group. The "sale" (if you believe the New York Times ) or "development" (if you prefer Murdoch's view) has handed him the greatest conceivable "platform" from which to launch his arsenal of on-screen, on-line content internationally.
"Consider this," says Murdoch, warming to his theme. "Through BSkyB [in Britain], viewers on average consult Sky's electronic programming guide seven times an hour. The average viewer, meanwhile, watches television five hours a day. Assuming two viewers per television, that's 70 hits on the guide per day." The brokers consider: that is a lot of advertising opportunity. But what does it mean?
"Multiply that by 75 million US pay-TV households," says Murdoch. "Liberally discount the number by 50 per cent, and you still have a site 10 times more popular than the next most popular site on the Web."
They left the Grand Hyatt on Thursday morning with Rupert ringing in their ears.
"I hope I have left you with at least a small sense of why we are so bullish at the dawn of the new millennium," he had told them. ". . . I have long believed that the race will go to the swift, to those with enough vision to invest now in the creation of assets that will be invaluable in the future . . . investment that is scrupulously vetted to be strategically aligned and to always give us a great accretion."
And there is no accretion like a great accretion.