October 18, 2022

Today's Media Trends is 1,235 words, a 4½-minute read. Tell your friends to follow along by signing up.

Situational awareness: Semafor, the global news startup from Justin and Ben Smith, launched this morning with a format called "Semaform" that's meant to offer different perspectives on news of the day.

1 big thing: 🎙️Cuomo's comeback

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Carlo Allegri-Pool/Getty Images

Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is launching a new podcast on the subscription podcast platform Quake, he told me in an interview.

Why it matters: It's the former governor's first major public undertaking since resigning last year in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal.

  • "I think I've learned from the entire situation," Cuomo said.
  • "There is a new sensitivity that I didn’t fully appreciate that some people have, and some people have a new sense of cultural boundaries that I didn’t appreciate enough," he said.

Details: The new hour-long show, called "As a Matter of Fact,” will debut weekly on Thursdays, beginning this week.

  • The show's first guest is former White House communications director and Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci.
  • The first two episodes will be free, but the others will be paywalled. The podcast, which will be recorded in Manhattan, will also be available as a video.
  • The show will feature radio-like call-ins, Cuomo said.
  • Cuomo said he has "a compensation arrangement" with Quake as a part of a one-year deal, but he declined to provide further deal terms.

The big picture: More politicians are using podcasts as a way to reach new audiences or plot a comeback.

  • Cuomo's younger brother Chris Cuomo, who was fired from CNN last year in the wake of his own scandal, launched a podcast this summer.

What to watch: Cuomo didn't rule out a return to politics.

  • He remains loyal to the Democratic Party, he noted.

Go deeper.

2. Murdoch merger eyes sports betting, News Corp. brand

Data: Yahoo Finance/Axios research; Table Jacque Schrag/Axios

The potential combination of the Murdoch family's newspaper empire and TV business would likely retain the News Corp. branding and would trade on the Australian Securities Exchange, sources told Axios.

How it works: The proposed transaction would be structured as a combination of two controlled companies via an all-stock agreement, similar to the deal to bring CBS and Viacom back together in 2019.

Driving the news: News Corp. and Fox Corp. filed separate notices to securities regulators Friday stating that they had each formed committees to begin exploring a potential combination of the two companies, which were split in 2013.

  • The rationale behind the merger would be to streamline two sets of content portfolios across global news and sports.
  • Costs saved from the combination would allow for more investments into emerging businesses on both sides, including sports betting, book publishing and digital subscriptions, the sources said.

What to watch: Lachlan Murdoch, the eldest son of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, is poised to oversee the potentially combined company, the sources said.

  • Ultimately, the logistics of how the management team will be structured will be left to the special committees, one source said.
  • Lachlan Murdoch currently serves as co-chairman of News Corp. and executive chairman and CEO of Fox Corp.

Yes, but: Even if the two companies were to combine, their collective scale wouldn't be enough to fundamentally challenge Big Tech rivals. But it would help the two companies streamline costs ahead of an economic downturn.

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3. Activist investor wants News Corp. to split

N.Y. Times and News Corp. stock price
Data: Yahoo Finance; Chart: Tory Lysik

Activist investor Irenic Capital has acquired a roughly $150 million stake in News Corp, aiming to push the company to separate the digital media business from its digital real estate assets, two sources told me.

Why it matters: In addition to pushing News Corp. to separate the media and real estate assets, Irenic could also play spoiler to the reunification plan.

The thesis: Irenic believes News Corp would be valued higher if its digital real estate practice, which includes a large digital real estate listings business in Australia, was separated from its media business.

  • Wall Street has not rewarded News Corp.'s diversified revenue strategy in the same way it has praised the New York Times' sole focus on subscriptions.

By the numbers: Irenic believes that News Corp. should be trading at roughly $34 per share, compared to the roughly $15.60 share price it trades at today.

  • News Corp owns a 61.4% stake in Australia's REA Group, which is valued at roughly $5.7 billion.

4. SiriusXM eyes live sports rights as subscriber growth slows

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: SiriusXM

SiriusXM is increasing its investment in live sports rights in an effort to lure and retain more premium subscribers, CEO Jennifer Witz told Axios.

Why it matters: Sports listeners have a lower churn rate than the average SiriusXM subscriber, and sports advertising now accounts for nearly a quarter of ad sales for SiriusXM, executives noted.

  • "Trial subscribers that listen to sports channels convert to a paid tier at a higher rate than those who don't listen to sports," said Scott Greenstein, SiriusXM president and chief content officer.
  • Live sports rights have also helped the company bolster digital streaming subscriptions, which have become a larger priority in the past few years.

Details: Unlike the video landscape, where rights for the major league games are scattered, SiriusXM has the exclusive audio rights to every regular season and postseason game for the NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA, with the exception of the local radio rights that are limited solely to local markets.

  • Those rights run on multiyear contract cycles, similar in length to the video deals the leagues strike with major TV networks.

State of play: Today, SiriusXM has roughly 34 million paid subscribers, with around 80% of its revenues coming from subscriptions.

  • While it's done more to increase its off-platform ad revenue through acquisitions like Pandora and podcast firm Stitcher, Witz said the company is committed to its business being mostly subscriber-driven.
  • "I'm not sure that we'll see a radical shift in subscription versus advertising," she said.

Go deeper.

5. Rich right funds new media

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

New investments in "free speech" social media platforms, podcasts and video channels are upending the media landscape and giving voices to conservatives who feel rejected by traditional outlets.

  • Why it matters: Many of today's conservative media moguls are both rich and politically active.

💰 Ye, formerly Kanye West, yesterday announced plans to acquire Parler, a Twitter-like social media app that has become a haven for conservatives.

  • 🗳️ Ye has toyed with the idea of running for president.

💰 Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter is expected to dramatically shift the way conservative content is filtered on the app, should the $44 billion deal finally go through in the next few months.

  • 🗳️ Musk in May said he will vote for Republicans.

💰 An investment by Peter Thiel and J.D. Vance in Rumble, a YouTube alternative for conservatives, has helped the site remain on track to complete its merger to go public via a blank check company.

  • 🗳️ Vance is the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Ohio.

💰 Donald Trump's Truth Social has faced many legal and financial problems in the past few months, but it continues to provide a platform for the former president and his allies.

Reality check: The space is becoming more crowded, and several big platforms are now competing for the same type of user.

  • Ye, who created a Parler profile yesterday morning, only had 9,500 followers as of last evening.

What we're watching: In addition to social networks, an entire economy — from cloud hosting networks to book publishers — has grown around conservative ideals and free speech absolutism.

6. Everyone has ads now

Monthly cost of select on-demand streaming services
Data: Axios research; Chart: Axios Visuals

After years of avoiding putting ads on its service, Netflix said last week it finally plans to debut an ad-supported tier on Nov. 3 in 12 countries for $6.99 monthly, including in the U.S.

What to watch: Netflix will report its third-quarter earnings this evening.

  • Investors are looking to understand growth estimates for its new ad tier and any progress it's made on password-sharing crackdowns.