Fox didn’t overpay for its new NFL rights, says Fox exec Peter Rice

“You either have the most-watched content on television, or you don’t have it.”

Fox is spending a reported $ 3.3 billion for NFL football rights for Thursday night over the next five years. And while NFL ratings are declining, Fox is paying some 30 percent more per game for the rights.

Is it overpaying?

“I don’t think so,” Fox Networks CEO Peter Rice said at the Code Media conference today in California. “Any time you go to an auction, somebody wins, and everybody who loses says that the winner overpaid.”

But something is different this time, CNBC’s Julia Boorstin prodded — ratings are down, notably for the Thursday night games that Fox acquired the rights to. How does that make sense?

“You either have the most-watched content on television, or you don’t have it,” Rice said.

Fox has been spending big bucks for NFL games since 1993, Rice noted, adding that revenue from those games has helped fuel many of Fox’s businesses since — such as FX and other newer television networks — and could continue to fuel new ones in the future.

Rice also said:

  • He doesn’t know which company he’ll go to if Disney successfully buys 21st Century Fox, where he’s president.
  • Hulu — partly owned by Fox, and where Rice is on the board — has added more subscribers in the U.S. than Netflix in the last two quarters. Rice thinks it’ll have 20 million subs by the time the Disney deal closes.
  • Hulu’s over-the-top pay TV service, for Fox at least, is the fastest growing. Some subscribers are “cord nevers” who are signing up for pay TV, others are attracted to its lower price than cable. For the last quarter, over-the-top TV replacement services have “essentially wiped out any cord cutting” for Fox.
  • The broad movement against sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace — which took down several Fox News executives and personalities — is “something that’s been sort of a wakeup call for companies” and how they address these issues. Rice says Fox has been more open and is encouraging people to come forward.

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Molly Graham, the top operations exec at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, is leaving

CZI has grown from 40 to more than 200 people in less than a year.

Molly Graham, one of the top executives at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, is leaving the company after just one year.

Graham joined CZI, the philanthropic investment company for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, less than a year ago to serve as VP of operations (essentially, COO).

Now Graham is leaving, but she says it’s for good reason. She recently got engaged and is moving to the east coast to live with her new fiancé. Eventually, Graham says, she’d like to start her own business, but plans to take some time off in the interim.

“Molly joined us at our infancy and helped lay a strong foundation for CZI,” Chan, who is very hands-on at CZI, said in a statement provided to Recode. “It’s bittersweet to say goodbye to someone who has been so central to our organization — it’s hard to imagine this place without her. Mark and I wish her nothing but the best as she embarks on this new adventure.”

CZI is very much a startup, but with the very un-startup-like task of properly investing and donating the Zuckerberg fortune, now valued at more than $ 75 billion. Since its founding in late 2015, CZI has invested in a wide range of initiatives, from education reform to disease-related research to a program that provides eye glasses to school children.

In the year since Graham joined, the company has grown from 40 people to more than 200; much of her role revolved around setting up the company’s operational structures, including integrating new employees and those who joined via acquisition.

Still, fast growth usually comes with lots of other quick changes, and Graham is not the only high-ranking exec to leave CZI in the past year. CTO Brian Pinkerton left in August, and head of communications Brent Colburn left in November.

“CZI is made up of the most extraordinary group of people I’ve ever worked with,” Graham sent in an email to colleagues Thursday morning. “I am so grateful to Mark and Priscilla for giving me the chance to help build CZI … There is no doubt in my mind that this organization will transform the spaces that we are investing in.”

CZI’s CFO, Peggy Alford, will take over much of Graham’s role.


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