Watchers of Rupert Murdoch’s empire are busy scrutinizing the new roles of his children Lachlan and James in an attempt to determine which may be the front runner to eventually succeed the media mogul.
But as far as the day-to-day operations of 21st Century Fox go, Chase Carey is still steering the ship. Described by Rupert Murdoch as his “partner and trusted advisor,” Carey, 60, is in the process of negotiating a new contract with the company.
Since returning to become Murdoch’s top lieutenant in 2009 after a stint running DirecTV, Carey has spent much of his time increasing revenue streams for the 21st Century Fox television unit. Fox Broadcasting has become very aggressive in negotiating higher distribution fees from cable and satellite operators.
He also has approved the big bets Fox has made on sports. Besides launching Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 last year, Fox has also taken control of the YES Network, a regional sports channel that is home to the New York Yankees.
Carey has been very vocal about threats to the television industry as well, particularly with regards to Aereo, the start-up service that streams local television station signals to the Internet. Broadcasters are trying to shut down Aereo on grounds that it violates copyright law. Carey made waves last year when he suggested that if Aereo were found by the courts to be legal (the Supreme Court will hear arguments next month), Fox was prepared to get out of the broadcasting business and convert its network to a cable channel.
Known for his handlebar moustache, love of beer and the Yankees, Carey keeps a low profile among Hollywood movers and shakers but is a favorite on Wall Street. The Harvard Business School graduate is a straight shooter who keeps his focus more to the bottom line and tends to steer clear of the creative side of the business.
While the entertainment units have plenty of autonomy, Carey won’t hesitate to call out misfires. He has expressed frustration over the ratings declines of Fox’s “American Idol” and the failure of “The X Factor” to live up to its hype.
Under the new structure unveiled Wednesday, James Murdoch will become co-chief operating officer and continues to report to Carey. Murdoch will now assume direct oversight of the Fox Networks Group, which houses the broadcast and cable programming holdings and is run by Peter Rice, who also just signed a new contract.
Roger Ailes, who oversees the Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network as well as the Fox-owned television stations, continues to report directly to Rupert Murdoch.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.