With both newsprint and TV stressed and diminished by ongoing digital disruption, combining News International (The Times, Sunday Times, Sun and News Of The World) with BSkyB (Sky News, other channels and the pay-TV access business with over 10 million subscribers) seemed an excellent avenue to shore things up, unleashing a modern powerhouse.
The pair had already enjoyed partnerships, like Times Online running Sky News video and News International papers featuring Sky Sports ads. Further integration was just the ticket for the internet age. At least, that’s what some observers thought would happen.
But now it may never come to pass.
The mire in which News Corp’s UK news publisher has found itself led to News Corp abandoning its BSkyB bid. Now News Corp, even at the corporate level in mid-town Manhattan, is splitting itself in two – one company for TV and movies, another for publishing. Rupert Murdoch’s resignation, this weekend, of the directorships of his beloved UK newspapers may not mean much materially, but it is amongst the first steps in that divorce.
It signals an end to the exciting – and, more importantly, necessary – prospects of a fully converged News Corp UK media power player. And it leaves the newspapers – notably the loss-making Times – exposed, less able to fall back on News Corp’s audio-visual profits.
That doesn’t mean the converged future isn’t still on the cards in other corners of News Corp – observers had expected Fox Business and Wall Street Journal to become closer later in 2012. But what might happen next is anyone’s guess, since a split-up of its parent would leave each outfit occupying two separate islands.
In the UK, in these circumstances, it is at least fortunate for Times Newspapers that it now charges for digital news – something which gives it a degree of revenue certainty, not least in the event – still hypothetical – a buyer may be sought.