News Corporation, owners of Fox, Sky and The Times, is signalling a retreat from its ambitious efforts to conquer China, agreeing to sell a majority stake in its three Chinese mainland channels to a new state-backed private equity fund China Media Capital.
The Chinese government, still officially Communist, keeps a beady eye on media operators, as Google and others can testify. News Corp bigwigs Rupert Murdoch and son James have clearly decided that this is one 800lb gorilla even they don’t want to take on.
A sign of News Corp’s failure to make inroads in what is rapidly becoming the world’s biggest consumer market is the modest $160m price tag put on the company’s stakes in Xing Kong, Xing Kong International and Channel Mainland China.
The Murdochs, in their contrary way, have their eyes firmly set on Europe by buying the 63 per cent of the UK’s Sky pay television they don’t already own, a deal that will likely cost them a chunky £8bn plus.
News Corp still has its two Star pay TV businesses in Asia, one in China and one in India, and may find that new Chinese majority ownership of the three channels it’s selling helps them to grow. But everyone assumed that Rupert Murdoch had firmly set his sights on conquering China, especially when he married third wife Chinese national Wendy Deng.
But there’s no room in the Murdoch empire for sentiment.