News Corp calls for 'fair share' of AI revenue
News Corp's chief executive wants the company to be compensated for content used by artificial intelligence, warning the technology poses a threat to the future of journalism.
Robert Thomson's premonition came as he announced on Friday the US-listed media group, which owns several newspapers, pay TV and streaming services in Australia, recorded better-than-expected quarterly revenue.
The company's intellectual property will inevitably be used to train AI engines, be surfaced in response to AI queries and be aggregated and monetised by other parties, he told investors.
"We expect our fair share of that monetisation," Mr Thomson said.
"Generative AI cannot be degenerative AI."
But the former Sydney Morning Herald writer also noted the potential benefits of AI for News Corp, from creating images for manga stories to saving time for management and customer service.
"As the well known management consultant Socrates observed: 'the secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but building the new'," he quipped.
Despite a two per cent drop in revenue to $US2.45 billion ($A3.66 billion), the result beat consensus expectations of $US2.39 billion for the three months ending March 31.
Mr Thomson says a 38 per cent jump in revenues at professional information business Dow Jones & Company, driven by the acquisitions of commodities services OPIS and CMA and growth in risk and compliance products, helped the media giant overcome industry-wide economic challenges.
"These results demonstrate the fundamental differences in the character of News Corp compared with other media companies," he said.
"In a period in which advertising was clearly insipid in certain parts of the world, our core non-advertising revenue has been particularly robust."
But the Rupert Murdoch-owned company says unfavourable foreign currency fluctuations and growing costs are responsible for an 11 per cent decline in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.
Net income in the quarter was $59 million compared with $104 million in the prior corresponding period, a drop of 43 per cent, which was chalked up to higher depreciation and amortisation expenses and higher losses from equity affiliates.
Mr Thomson said it was a "pleasant surprise" to see print advertising outperform digital, buoyed by a pick-up in travel advertising across News Corp's Australian print mastheads.
Earnings per share were down to 9c compared with 14c the prior year, better than analyst expectations of 5c.
The company last quarter announced it would slash one in 20 jobs, which it now expects to contribute to $160 million in savings per year.
Mr Thomson made an impassioned plea for the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who he says has been "wrongfully, wilfully detained" in Russia.
"We trust that justice and common sense will prevail, and that Evan will soon be released," he said.