Murdoch and BBC Cosy-Up in MySpace Deal

25 January 2008

LONDON: A mutual admiration society the BBC and Rupert Murdoch are not – despite sharing certain characteristics. Such as avidity for power and influence. And an eagle eye for the main chance.

But even so, the deal, announced Thursday between News Corporation's MySpace and, the broadcaster's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, has raised eyebrows among denizens of the global media village.

With immediate effect, BBCW becomes MySpace’s first 'broadcasting partner', contributing three-minute clips from its popular youth-oriented TV shows – Doctor Who, The Mighty Boosh and The Catherine Tate Show.

The union of these unlikely bedfellows has already provoked comment, especially given the mutual hostility that has until now existed between the BBC and Clan Murdoch.

Observers point to Rupert Murdoch’s removal in 1994 of the BBC's World Service channel from his Star TV network in China, in order to placate the nation's communist leadership.

He has also accused successive UK governments of failing to restrain the BBC from alleged anti-competitive practices, claiming: "It gets anything it wants and has done from any government."

While son James, who fought his way up from the ranks to become ceo of BSkyB, later harmonised with poppa, dutifully accusing the BBC of taxpayer-funded "megalomania".

But all is now sweetness and light, with neither party wanting to rain on MySpace's parade by opining on such ephemera.

"I can’t comment on that but this [arrangement] speaks for itself," says BBCW director of digital media Simon Danker. "You are bringing the largest social network together with one of the largest providers of video which is popular all over the world, so it’s just a really good partnership."

Travis Katz, md of MySpace’s international unit, is equally diplomatic: "We have a very positive relationship, very similar ideas of what we want to get out of this. I think it’s a deal we are quite excited about and don’t anticipate any conflict, frankly."

The twin titans will share ad revenues – although neither will reveal the the amount of cash on the table.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff