News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch talked generally about the economy, politics and cable at yesterday’s CableShow general session.

In regards to the economy, he was pessimistic. "I think the long term situation is still very dangerous," he said, adding that he doesn’t expect the bear market to ease up for another year or two.

Regarding politics, Murdoch complimented President Obama, saying: "Our current president is quite brilliant. We’ve had a couple of very charming conversations with him. We’ll just see."

While acknowledging "notable headline-grabbing excesses" of the recent past, he expressed concern about incurring too much debt. He suggested maybe the United States should follow Germany’s lead and "take the pain now and not risk runaway inflation."

Murdoch focused more on cable when he was joined by the panel, consisting of Jeffrey Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner; Philippe Dauman, CEO of Viacom; and Michael Fries, CEO of Liberty Global International. The cable conversation focused mainly on the business model for monetizing online content. (For more on online video, click here.)

"Nobody is making money with the free content on the Web except the search," said Murdoch. "We’ve got to monetize."

But Dauman said there’s a middle ground for making money with online content. "Some programming you can put on very close after it’s aired," Dauman said. "You do get incremental monetization if you do it right." He cited "The Daily Show," which has seen its TV ratings rise even though it’s also streamed with advertisements.

Bewkes, who announced Time Warner’s new initiative TV Everywhere earlier this year, said cable needs to support its subscribers by getting its video content online for them.

Broadcasters are worried out retransmission, Bewkes said, "but that’s not my fight." He said cable should move its ad model to broadband along with the content.

Fries pointed out a fact that’s been mentioned frequently at the CableShow: Cable companies are uniquely situated because they deliver both video and data. While cable may not be immune to recession, "we do have some pretty strong antibodies," he said.

– Linda Hardesty

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