Murdoch: We're Not Interested in Yahoo; Will Indeed Remain Subscription-Based

Includes: MSFT, NWS, YHOO
by: Mick Weinstein

On yesterday's earnings conference call, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch quelled rumors that he's starting a bidding war for Yahoo, and was even more adamant that he's not interested in Time Warner's AOL unit:

Jessica Reif Cohen - Merrill Lynch

How about one initial topic, on the Internet... could you discuss any interest that you may have in Yahoo! and any structure that may include?

Rupert Murdoch

I’ll just start and Peter can follow, to say we are definitely not going to make a bid for Yahoo!, and Peter might like to elaborate on that but we’re not -- we’re not really interested at this stage.

Peter Chernin, President and COO

I don’t think there’s anything to elaborate. We’re not making a bid. I think Rupert said it pretty succinctly...

Kenneth Lee, Reuters

... if AOL comes up for sale, would you be interested in some sort of transaction?

Rupert Murdoch

That's an even easier question - no.

Murdoch also verified statements he made recently in Davos that News Corp. plans to keep significant portions of the Wall St. Journal's online edition behind a pay wall:

Like the paper itself, we expect to add more free content to the online journal. This month, we made of its opinion articles available for free, stories from personal finance, politics, and the business of life, as well as the Journal’s blogs and videos, will be made available to non-subscribers.

But the bulk of the Journal’s core business coverage will remain behind the subscription wall and the exclusive intelligence service for serious business people and investors. This will allow us to broaden our global reach while increasing subscription revenue to make the online Journal the most profitable subscription based financial site on the Internet today.

In the Q&A session:

Benjamin Swinburne - Morgan Stanley

Thank you. Good afternoon. Rupert, you talked at the outset about the Journal and Dow Jones and the investments there, and online being a key to the growth story. Can you talk a little bit about the decision to keep the core content pay? What is behind that, if that is still something that you are thinking about changing down the road?....

Rupert Murdoch

I think as far as online goes, the fact is that those items, those matters that are basically commodities and that you can get free elsewhere, or those subjects, that will be in our new wider, more open online service.

But we have unique financial information. It is clearly of tremendous value to people and we think we ought to charge for, the same as everybody else does. And as we open new niche online sites, some of them will be extremely valuable and we expect it will take -- you know, this is not going to happen in the next three months but we are having talks with a lot of financial institutions who seem to be welcoming this approach and we are hopeful that over the next couple of years, we’ll have major increases in revenue in the enterprise group.