21st Century Fox (US)

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Fox served for several years as an umbrella brand for the entertainment assets of what was until recently Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Following the spin-off of its publishing operations, the Fox businesses now form the core of the renamed 21st Century Fox group. Cornerstones are movie studio Twentieth Century Fox and the Fox TV broadcast network, which has risen steadily in the ratings from rank outsider to one of the top networks. At the same time, the Fox News cable channel has established a position as the most watched news broadcaster in the US. The business has also dabbled heavily, but not always happily, in interactive media through the acquisition or development of destinations sites including the social networking portal MySpace and online video service Hulu, now jointly owned by Fox, Disney and Comcast. For several years between 1999 and 2005, Fox was a self-contained and separately quoted division of News Corp. It was later absorbed back into the larger group, before being re-established as a standalone business from July 2013. The new 21st Century Fox also controls most of the old group's international satellite broadcasting interests including Sky in the UK.

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Fox Movies Fox News
Fox Searchlight Fox Sports Net
Fox Home Entertainment FX
National Geographic TV The Speed Channel
Hulu.com MyNetworkTV

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Adbrands Weekly Update 23rd Mar 2017: The UK Government referred 21st Century Fox's proposed takeover of its part-owned subsidiary Sky to regulators. Media watchdog Ofcom has been tasked with deciding whether full ownership of Sky would give Fox too much political influence in the UK. A decision is expected mid-May. An earlier attempt by the Murdoch family to take control of Sky through what was then News Corporation prompted substantial opposition from politicians and rival media outlets. It was eventually abandoned when News Corp became embroiled in the phone hacking scandal. Since then, the Murdochs argue, the structure of the global media industry has changed dramatically, not least as a result of the increasing dominance of Google and Facebook. Meanwhile, the old News Corp has been split in two, so Sky would be entirely separate from the original group's newspaper publishing interests. However, both would still ultimately be controlled by the Murdochs.

Adbrands Weekly Update 9th February 2017: Ads Of The Week: "Genius". McCann New York delivered arguably the most unexpected crowdpleaser to promote National Geographic Channel's new scripted documentary series Genius. Few had anticipated such a clever film, which tied in very nicely indeed with Lady Gaga's halftime spectacular. Nice to see actor Geoffrey Rush back in the spotlight again after a prolonged break. 

Adbrands Weekly Update 9th February 2017: Super Bowl 51 was a triumph for the New England Patriots, but not quite so much for host Fox. An average audience of 111.32m viewers, according to Nielsen, made it only the 5th largest game in history. The record is still held by the 2015 game, hosted by NBC, and also won by the Patriots, which attracted 114.4m viewers. The Super Bowl broke the 100m figure for the first time in 2010, and audiences since then have held reasonably steady between 105m and 115m. The latest game also attracted 1.72m streaming viewers on Fox Sports Go and 650,000 on Spanish language Fox Deportes.

Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Jan 2017: Fox News' #2 anchor Megyn Kelly is to leave the company after accepting a new contract from NBC. Kelly's star is currently at an all-time high after her widely publicised battles with Donald Trump during 2016, and publication of her best-selling memoir. She is said to have declined a $20m contract to stay with Fox News, accepting a lower but arguably more prestigious - certainly more challenging - offer from NBC. Under the new arrangement she will launch a new daytime TV talk show for NBC, as well as her own Sunday evening news magazine to rival CBS's 60 Minutes. Both projects carry significant risks - several other news anchors have tried and failed to establish a presence in daytime or to better 60 Minutes. Insiders have suggested that NBC might also choose to deploy Kelly in other major network events, such as elections or the Olympics.

Adbrands Weekly Update 15th Dec 2016: The Murdoch family's 21st Century Fox media group has agreed to acquire the 61% of European satellite broadcaster Sky it doesn't already own. The deal values Sky at £18.5bn. A renewed approach from Fox has been widely expected for several years. An earlier attempt by what was then News Corporation to take control of Sky was abandoned in 2011 in the wake of public outcry over the hacking of private voicemails of celebrities and other figures in the news. Much has changed since then, including the split of the old News Corp into two separate businesses; the rapid growth of online channels, especially Facebook, as a source of news coverage; the emergence of Netflix, Amazon and BT as major players in streamed entertainment; and also the expansion of Sky to include the satellite broadcasting businesses previously controlled by Fox in Germany and Italy. Yet hostility towards the Murdoch clan is firmly entrenched in certain British circles, and the immediate response from Britain's political establishment to the Fox offer was largely negative. That residual bad feeling may no longer be enough to justify political opposition to the deal.

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Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: Rupert Murdoch acquired Twentieth Century Fox in 1985, exactly 50 years after it was first created by the merger of Darryl F Zanuck's independent production company Twentieth Century Pictures with Fox Film Corporation, one of the early pioneers of the industry. Hungarian immigrant William Fox had been one of the first independent filmmakers in the United States. He first set up his company in 1909 to oppose the monopoly held by Thomas Edison's Motion Picture Patents Company on film manufacturing and distribution. Officially an "outlaw", he defied the MPPC with a string of sensational melodramas starring sexy "vamp" star Theda Bara as well as crowd-pleasing cowboy pictures with Tom Mix. Fox also built a chain of lavishly decorated movie theatres across the country. When sound arrived in the early 1930s, Fox invested heavily in the new equipment, but was side-swiped by the depression and was forced to sell off his production business in order to hold on to the cinemas. 

At around the same time, Darryl Zanuck, the ambitious young head of production at Warner Brothers, resigned over a salary dispute. Determined to write his own paychecks in future, he formed independent production company Twentieth Century Pictures, agreeing a deal with well-established United Artists to distribute his movies. However the UA deal quickly soured, and Zanuck was forced to find a new partner. In 1935 he agreed to merge his fledgling business with ailing Fox Film to form Twentieth Century Fox, poaching UA's Joseph Schenk to become chairman. (Despite the sale of Fox Studios, William Fox was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1936, but later tried to bribe a judge and was jailed for a year in 1942. He died in 1952).

Zanuck remained the figurehead for Twentieth Century Fox for almost four decades. Although he could be as tyrannical and mercurial as any of his peers, he was arguably one of the most creative of the studio heads, interfering incessantly with scripts (as well as with his roster of eager young starlets) but rarely intruding in the actual film-making process. As a result, Fox quickly became known as the directors' studio, a comparatively hassle-free home for "auteurs" such as Ernst Lubitsch, John Ford, Elia Kazan and Joseph Mankiewicz. Virtually the only gentile studio boss in Hollywood, Zanuck also tended to steer clear of the sentimental fantasies produced by other studios. Instead he broke new ground, daring to tackle more controversial social issues such as dustbowl poverty (memorably in The Grapes of Wrath, which author John Steinbeck described as even harsher than his original novel), anti-Semitism (Gentleman's Agreement), racism (Pinky) and mental illness (The Snake Pit). 

At the same time, he kept audiences happy with a string of box-office female stars including Shirley Temple during the 1930s, Betty Grable in the 1940s, Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield in 1950s. In a bid to ward off the threat from television during that decade, Zanuck invented big budget historical spectacle with The Robe, the first movie filmed in Cinemascope. But the march of television was relentless and Zanuck stunned the industry when he bailed out from Fox in 1956 and moved to Europe to become an independent producer.

Initially the studio continued to prosper, turning its attention to big budget musicals, and scoring hits with adaptations of stage triumphs The King and I and South Pacific. But in the early 1960s, disaster struck when two more expensive musicals, Star! and Hello Dolly both failed at the box office. At the same time the studio was struggling desperately to contain disastrous cost overruns on the production of Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Meanwhile former boss Zanuck was riding high on the success of his independently produced D Day epic The Longest Day, and in 1963 he was begged by Twentieth Century Fox's board to take back control of the studio. He agreed, installing son Richard Zanuck as head of production. Their first project was another musical, a highly unpromising tale of a nun who becomes surrogate mother to an Austrian family at the outset of World War II. But The Sound Of Music turned out to be a box office smash, earning five Oscars and ending up as the most successful movie since Gone With The Wind almost 30 years before.

That was to be Darryl Zanuck's swansong. There were no follow-ups to the success of The Sound Of Music and the studio struggled through the second half of the decade. After another mammoth flop in 1968 with Doctor Doolittle, the Fox board made Zanuck Jr acting president of the studio, but the infighting between father and son grew unmanageable, and in 1971 both Zanucks were forced out. Twentieth Century Fox drifted along for a few years but then got a new lease of life in 1977 when it agreed to finance production of another very unpromising-sounding movie, a science fiction adventure set in "a galaxy far far away". Not even director George Lucas had anticipated just how enormously successful Star Wars would be, quickly becoming the most successful film of all time. 

With the movie industry now regarded as a hot investment, Fox was acquired in 1981 by oil tycoon Marvin Davis for $722m. He played with the business for four years before selling it on to Rupert Murdoch at a loss for $575m. For Murdoch it was to be the platform for a new entertainment business which would run alongside his newspaper interests in America, acquired a few years earlier. In 1986 he established a television arm with the purchase of six stations from Metromedia. A decade later he established cable news channel Fox News to rival the then all-powerful CNN, followed by a family strand one year later with the acquisition of Pat Robertson's International Family Entertainment. That company's Family Channel was promptly rebranded as Fox Family Worldwide, becoming the springboard for the rollout of the Fox Kids cable and satellite channels. A sports channel was launched the same year, initially as a joint venture with Liberty Media Group. (Fox bought out Liberty in 1999 and rebranded the channel as Fox Sports Net). In order to bolster the output of his sports channels, News Corp acquired the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1998. Fox scored that year with the movie Titanic which beat the odds to become the highest-grossing film of all time. Buoyed by that movie's success, News Corp floated off a 19% stake in Fox Entertainment, generating $2.8bn of cash, then one of the largest ever US corporate offerings. (Those shares were bought back in 2005 for around $6.2bn in News Corp stock).

In 2001 the group began shuffling its pack of broadcast interests, grouping them as Fox Cable Networks, while also acquiring a pack of additional television stations across the US from Chris-Craft. At the same time, the company's partner in Fox Family Worldwide, TV entrepreneur Haim Saban, exercised his option to force News Corp to buy his 49% stake in the business. Unwilling to take full ownership, News Corp began looking for a buyer for the whole business. It was subsequently sold to Walt Disney's ABC division in 2001. In 2003, after what had been literally years of on-off negotiations with General Motors, News Corporation agreed a deal to purchase the controlling stake in Hughes Corporation. News Corp transferred its ownership of Hughes into Fox Entertainment Group.

In 2004, Fox's 169 US television stations were each fined $7,000 by the FCC for airing an episode of reality TV show Married In America in which topless couples sprayed whipped cream on each other, before the 10pm watershed. The combined fine totaled almost $1.2m, a new record for indecency penalties against television broadcasters, more than double that handed to CBS for the infamous incident in which Janet Jackson exposed a breast during the 2004 Super Bowl. See full profile for current activities

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