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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China Is Developing Rice That Grows in Saltwater

China: Old Country, New Tricks

More than half the global population relies on rice to survive, but meeting that demand is difficult due to the increasing scarcity of freshwater, which is required for rice cultivation. To get around the problem, an 87-year-old Chinese scientist named Yuan Longping is developing a new high-yield strain of rice that grows in saltwater.

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Swamps, bogs, and clay-like or salty coastal waters make up roughly a third of the total arable land in China. Growing rice in these locales is nearly impossible because salt stresses plants’ water-absorption process. Specifically, saltwater makes photosynthesis and respiration more difficult for stalks and slows their growth to death.

Salt from coastal flooding and tides has left just a fraction of China’s total land open to freshwater rice farming, and in Dongying, a region on China’s eastern coast, 40 percent of land has a salt concentration higher than 0.5 percent, according to the World Bank. Experts expect the rising waters from global climate change to exacerbate this problem.

For his research, Longping planted 200 different saltwater-tolerant rice strains at the Qindao Saline-Alkali Tolerant Rice Research and Development Center on the Yellow Sea. According to China’s Xinhua News Agency, his efforts yielded 8,030 pounds of rice per acre. For comparison, most commercial U.S. growers harvest between 7,200-7,600 pounds per acre annually.

Though promising, Longping’s experiment did not mimic the actual conditions in China, instead using water with a much lower salt concentration than could be found in nature.

“It’s still only maybe 10 percent the level of salt in sea water,” Assistant Director General for Agriculture at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) Ren Wang told Business Insider, so the “salt-proof” rice does have a long way to go before it could help ordinary farmers.

The Future of Food

China already produces more rice than any other country on Earth, but if Chinese farmers had access to rice that grows in saltwater, they could plant it in the vast saltwater lands of their country, increasing the nation’s food supply significantly, Wang told Business Insider.

Longping’s rice could also free up freshwater lands that are currently reserved for rice to grow other foods. More affluent Chinese citizens are demanding more meat and less grain-based food, but meeting that need has proven increasingly difficult given the amount of freshwater land reserved for rice cultivation.

Longping’s early success with rice that grows in saltwater also comes at a time when rice producers are reporting particularly unfavorable conditions.

According to the UN FAO’s 2017 global rice production forecast, Sri Lanka and South Korea are experiencing “abnormal dryness,” and Bangladesh recently suffered the worst flooding to hit South Asia in a decade. Nepal and India were also hit by floods and droughts this year, and citizens of those nations will consequently see an increase in prices.

With ice shelves the size of Delaware breaking off the Antarctic with increasing frequency, Longping’s approach to agricultural innovation may determine how future generations cope with the food scarcity that could follow the loss of freshwater land to saltwater flooding.

The post China Is Developing Rice That Grows in Saltwater appeared first on Futurism.


Tesla has added James Murdoch and Linda Johnson Rice to its board of directors

Murdoch and Rice will serve as independent board directors.

Tesla has added two new independent directors to its board, a move CEO Elon Musk said he’d been working on since the electric vehicle manufacturer merged with his solar panel company SolarCity.

Joining the now nine member board are two media executives, Linda Johnson Rice — the CEO of Johnson Publishing Company as well as the CEO of Ebony Media Operations — and 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch.

A group of influential investors called for the addition of independent board members back in April, criticizing Tesla’s board for the conflict of interest posed by the close ties many of the members have with Musk.

The board consists of Musk’s brother Kimbal Musk, former SolarCity CFO Brad Buss, SpaceX investor Ira Ehrenpreis, SpaceX board member, Draper Fisher Jurvetson partner Steve Jurvetson, another SpaceX board member Antonio Gracias, and COO of telecom company Tesltra Robyn Denholm.

In a letter to Gracias, which Bloomberg first reported, these investors wrote:

“Directors should be held to a higher standard of independence given the conflicts of interest that permeate this board. A thoroughly independent board would provide a critical check on possible dysfunctional group dynamics, such as groupthink.”

Musk responded by first chiding these investors, which include the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and CtW Investment Group, and then saying the company was already seeking independent board members.

In addition to serving as CEO of Johnson Publishing Company and Ebony Media Operations, Rice also has served on the boards of companies like Bausch & Lomb, Continental Bank, Quaker Oats, Dial Corporation, Moneygram and Omnicom Group.

Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch, has worked his way through 21st Century Fox — which owns Fox News — previously serving as the co-COO and CEO for Europe and Asia as well as for some of the Sky network properties across Europe.

The company is currently in the midst of an attempt to attain approval to buy out the rest of the Sky network in Europe but has come up against resistance from regulators in the United Kingdom who argue they could use the network’s trove of data for political ends.

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