Fox Networks Group’s Peter Rice talks creative scale, power of TV advertising, new era for storytelling at Milken Conference


At the 20th Annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles, where leaders across industries gathered to discuss solutions to some of the world’s pressing challenges, Peter Rice, Chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group, participated in a panel discussion and talked about the importance of scale for the business, data-driven advertising on Hulu and the importance of diversity. The session on Wednesday, May 3, titled “That’s Entertainment: Looking for the Next Stage,” was moderated by Julia Boorstin, senior media and entertainment correspondent for CNBC, and included Leslie Moonves, Chairman and CEO of CBS Corp.; Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer of Netflix; actress and producer Reese Witherspoon; and Jeremy Zimmer, CEO and founding partner of United Talent Agency (UTA).

The importance of scale

When asked about the importance of scale for Fox Networks Group, Peter spoke of two levels of scale: business and creativity. Entertainment companies need scale and size to compete effectively, he said. But for 21st Century Fox creative businesses, nimbleness is a virtue. “On a creative level, I actually think scale is quite dangerous,” he said.

Digital vs. TV advertising

In discussing the upcoming Upfronts market, Peter questioned some of the misconceptions shaping people’s understanding of the efficacy of television advertising vs digital platforms. While FOX and CBS, for example, use a consistent form of measurement, digital outlets do not.

During Super Bowl LI, which aired on FOX, “we delivered 16 billion minutes of advertising,” Peter said. “It would have taken Facebook’s entire video portfolio 10 years to deliver that many impressions.”

Hulu’s impact on advertising

Hulu (which 21CF jointly owns with the Walt Disney Company, Comcast and Time Warner) gives Fox Networks Group an important direct-to-consumer product, one that will yield meaningful data.

“You have $200 billion spent in this country on marketing and being able to have the best product – and television is the best product for delivering an advertising message – and being able to do it in an addressable way, I think that’s the big difference that’s going to come from data,” said Peter. “I think that’s a huge opportunity for us, and I think we’re just at the beginnings of it.”

Storytelling and culture

The panel discussed the current cultural climate and its impact on television storytelling. Peter said he expects the industry will see how the current political era will affect storytelling in the next 12-24 months, “and probably in ways that we don’t understand or expect.”