Peter Coleman: Year-end that punctuates Murdochs' media moves

It's not over until it's over, and it may take until New Year's Eve to know how the tussle over carriage fees between News and Telstra, its Foxtel partner in Australia, will be resolved.

December 31 is the deadline by which an agreement has to be reached... and that's if both partners want one. News' situation has changed somewhat since it entered into a binding process agreement to merge Fox Sports with Foxtel, under which News would end up with a 65 per cent stake, and it has good reasons for wanting more for the Sky News content.

Notable is the impact of the giant sale of 20th Century Fox to Disney in the way it indicates not just News' - or rather the controlling Murdoch family's - priorities, but also its ambitions.

While it's seen that the Disney deal leaves Murdoch interests more focussed on news than entertainment, News itself in Australia has become increasingly video-focussed, its resources strengthened by taking full ownership of Sky News from previous partners Seven and Nine and bringing it into the Holt Street bunker.

Things can change quickly, as the frustrated moves to acquire and privatise the Ten Network earlier this year demonstrate. Here again moves were overshadowed by a deadline - the date until which Lachlan Murdoch, James Packer and Bruce Gordon were guaranteeing a $250 million bank loan. Like the rush to push through media the law reform needed for Gordon and Lachlan Murdoch to own Ten, it all seems like history now.

Even with succession plans and the respective interests of Lachlan and James Murdoch taken into account, we can speculate that news and its influence on politics, is where Rupert's heart lies, and he is entitled to follow it.

It's more than 22 years since the 1995 joint venture with Telstra, and more than just the cable-based mode of delivery has changed. As online streaming becomes the preferred option in an increasingly mobile-focussed market, who's going to need cable?

And content? Well the Murdochs aren't actually losing a film studio business - for $US52.4 billion ($67.8 billion) in stock - so much as gaining a 4.25 per cent stake in Disney.

"Giant retirement" - as some have suggested? We don't think so.

Peter Coleman

Mumbrella Australia has reported that an agreement between News Corp and Telstra on carriage fees for Sky News on Foxtel was not reached by the deadline, but that new terms have now been agreed and "will be finalised in due course".

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