News Corp. earnings calls got boring after Rupert Murdoch left them, but Twitter offers consolation
News Corp.'s quarterly earnings calls with Wall Street analysts and the press weren't always such dull affairs. But when Rupert Murdoch stopped participating in them a little more than a year ago, the chance of anything really provocative or surprising or blunt being said vanished with him.
Perhaps that's by design: the company's troubles in the U.K. required that the 81-year-old chairman begin to maintain a lower profile, or at least not put himself in a situation every four months in which reporters could lob fastballs at him at the touch of a button.
And after that, the time alloted to reporter questions seemed to get shorter and shorter. And then, during the most recent call this past Novemeber, the fifth or so conducted by Murdoch's right-hand man, C.O.O. Chase Carey, reporters weren't allowed to ask any questions at all.
That will also be the case, as News Corp. announced this week, during its second fiscal quarter 2013 earnings call on Feb. 6.
"Senior executives will host a call with analysts and media to discuss the results. Reporters are invited to join the call on a listen-only basis," the company said in a statement (emphasis theirs).
To be fair, it's rare for a publicly traded company to even give reporters the opportunity to ask questions on an earnings call; questions tend to be reserved exclusively for the analysts.
But we nevertheless wondered why News Corp. had suddenly changed course.
"We changed our policy last year in order to allow more time for the analyst Q and A portion of the call," a spokesman told Capital.
He wouldn't comment on whether this was a permanent decision. But maybe after the forthcoming corporate crack-up of News Corp's publishing and entertainment assets into separate companies, and therefore separate calls, there will once again be question time for everyone. (The analysts, it's worth noting, usually want to know about things like FX and Fox Sports, while the reporters tend to ask about newspapers and phone-hacking and the like.)
We asked whether Murdoch, who was known to make candid, often newsmaking remarks during the reporter Q&As, would return to the calls at some point in the future.
The spokesman wouldn't say, but pointed out that Murdoch was on a June 28 call with analysts after the company announced that it would be splitting in two.
In the meantime, we now have Murdoch's Twitter account to mine, which offers some of the old fun. Some recent hits:
There's this, which is interesting because Fox News, and now the New York Post, are taking a very different line from their parent-company chairman on guns:
Constitution right about guns for self defence and hunting.Founders did not mean modern weapons of war.— Rupert Murdoch(@rupertmurdoch) January 15, 2013
Then there's this, which immediately made people angry for a convoluted ball of reasons, from insensitivity to weird ideas about welfare, but which is more interesting as a hamfisted attempt to sound on a different issue altogether like his favorite current politician, Michael Bloomberg:
How did fat lady who fell thru street get to 400 lbs?Welfare, stamps, etc?Then leave us all with 20yrs immense health bills.— Rupert Murdoch(@rupertmurdoch) January 15, 2013
There's this, from among a series of tweets from the Consumer Electronics Show, in which the press baron who is generally thought tone-deaf on digital media aligns himself with the cool kids:
And here, another fascinating bit of crypto-Republican newthink, Bloomberg style. A policy package with no actual candidates to back it up, yet. (But this is where Murdoch's money is going to go for the next several years.)
Biden- McConnell deal will not help economy, jobs or deficit. Only immigration, education,innovation, entitlement reform can get thru this.— Rupert Murdoch(@rupertmurdoch) January 1, 2013