News Int chief highlights Premier League deal as new direction
News International's new chief executive, Mike Darcey, has held up winning the Premier League digital rights as indicative of his vision for the company's future, centred around "content worth paying for" and "customer care".
In one of his first public addresses since taking control of News International at the start of the year, the former chief operating officer at BSkyB outlined his vision for the new News International, which will emerge from the creation of the Fox Group in July.
He called the deal secured in January to show Premier League football highlights on mobile and internet sites for The Sun, Times and Sunday Times, a "great example of our thinking and ambition".
He said: "There are few news businesses that combine the financial muscle and technical expertise that made this deal possible with the knowledge of audience that will ensure we can turn it into a paying proposition. This truly is content worth paying for, and it’s going to be content that delivers an audience worth advertising to."
The deal has been unofficially valued at more than £20m, and will enable News International brands to present up to eight 30-second clips of key moments during live matches via mobile devices.
Drawing on his 15 years experience at BSkyB, Darcey said that the TV industry had navigated many of the same challenges facing the press around making content pay. He noted it had embraced the internet and the power of strong customer relationships, and combined creative advertising.
He said: "At Sky they changed how people saw TV. They showed that against a backdrop of strong free offering, it was possible to operate a successful paid-for offering.
"They assembled a distinctive content offering, made it convenient and simple to consumer, enhanced it with added value features and functionality, complemented by additional services, all supported by great customer service. And it worked."
He added: "I believe Sky’s approach is a good hint of what we should do in this industry, indeed what we have to do to survive and thrive."
Talking in the presence of some staff, many of whom have shares in the company and are currently deciding whether to cash-in when News Corp splits into two separate publicly-run companies this summer, 47-year-old Darcey also said News International will remain a "significant part" of News Corporation.
He said: "Once you have a distinctive content offering, the key to a successful subscription business is customer care and strong relationships across the board.
"We're focused on establishing more meaningful direct relationships with our readers, and we're looking to get closer to our advertisers, too."
He added to the agencies and advertising representatives in the room: "The days of handing over a page to you guys, or of taking your creative cold and slapping it on a page, are gone. We know our audiences - and as we grow subscriber relationships, we will know them even better - and we want to share that understanding with you."
Darcey did touch upon the phone-hacking scandal and News International being "in the headlines a lot for the wrong reasons", but said the failings had been addressed to ensure "those things never happen again".
Pointing to the heritage, expertise and financial clout remaining in the company, he noted the new company, which will also include Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co, Australian newspapers, HarperCollins book publishing and Australian television assets, will be the "largest publishing company in the world".
News International's leading executives will be presenting new opportunities surrounding its Premier League rights at this year's Media360 event on 6 June. See more details of Media360's celebratory 10 year anniversay and industry speakers at http://www.media-360.co.uk/
This article was first published on mediaweek.co.uk
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