Panic is not a characteristic that one would associate with the
steely Rupert Murdoch. Unless it’s the panic that the man inspires in
the bowels of his underlings whenever his plane touches down on their
turf. But it seems that Mr Murdoch has begun to experience some
unnerving professional misgivings.
A few days ago, he confided that his company’s prospects have been
transformed in the past month or two - and not for the better. He’s
The reason for the alarm is the growing stronghold that new-media
companies have on the news and entertainment markets where Murdoch has
established his business base. The AOL Time Warner merger has undermined
his global positioning, and Murdoch has admitted: ’A lot of us used to
be big fish in a big pond, now we are all minnows with two huge sharks.’
Those sharks are AOL and Microsoft, and it is not hard to see why
Murdoch is a little rattled.
Murdoch has been relatively slow to spot the opportunities of new media.
He is now throwing millions at the web, but more canny, if less
experienced, operations have beaten Murdoch to the new-media mega
In trailing the likes of AOL, has Murdoch left himself exposed?
Definitely, which is why the past few days have seen a scramble to catch
up. The new-media fuelled mega mergers have sent Murdoch’s business
spinning to the global sidelines and now he’s in defence mode. Last
week’s financial results from BSkyB trumpeted a pounds 250 million
investment in the internet, which the City rewarded with a 19 per cent
increase in the share price. Then there’s a new alliance with Vodafone
to be in at the start of the wireless application protocol revolution.To
top it all, Murdoch has now unveiled plans to consolidate his global
satellite interests into a single company which will provide a new web
service via satellite. Nevertheless, in a rare admission of weakness,
Murdoch acknowledged last week that he is having to work harder than
ever ’so that we don’t become a breakfast snack for these other big
The strength of Murdoch’s content (sports and movies) and the investment
in new media suggest that if the sharks do get Murdoch, he will now
prove rather more meaty victual. But his comments do throw the decision
to refer the planned Carlton and United tie-up to the Monopolies
Commission into harsh relief. If an international player and, in many
ways, a pioneering one like Murdoch considers himself a minnow, what
hope do our home-grown media companies - still so parochial in their
outlook and asset base - have of survival when the sharks start
The Carlton/United merger must be examined in the light of global
But even if the merger gets past the regulators, the new company will
have to swim furiously to survive.