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Murdoch: Cable is the future of broadband

The chairman of News Corporation closes the cable industry's largest annual gathering by praising cable technology as the broadband choice for the next millennium.

CHICAGO--Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation, today closed the cable industry's largest annual gathering by praising cable technology as the broadband choice for the next millennium.

Despite his significant overseas holdings in the satellite industry, Murdoch, a major media mogul whose news, entertainment, and online properties by some estimates reach nearly three out of four people on the planet, said cable is the best conduit for new broadband services, like high-speed Net access.

"I don't think there's any doubt, as far forward as we can see, that the future is with cable," Murdoch said in a panel discussion at the Cable '99 conference here. "There's nothing that [direct broadcast satellite] can do that cable, at the moment, can't do better."

The media titan also touched on the future of the Internet and the content it carries. As a small number of popular channels attract the largest amount of views, Murdoch said the consolidation of Web sites that focus on content will continue.

"I can't see thousands and thousands and thousands of Internet sites surviving. But major ones, absolutely," he said.

Murdoch said that although media technologies and access devices may change dramatically as the Internet matures, people will still want familiar forms of news, sports, and entertainment that are easy to access and understand.

Industry executives also cheered Murdoch's remarks that he will not push for "digital must carry" laws, under which cable operators would be forced to deliver the digital signals of the broadcast television networks, such as the Murdoch-owned Fox.

Murdoch, like the cable companies, would instead prefer to negotiate individual deals for high-definition television programs, such as the recent alliance between AT&T and NBC.

"We're against regulations. We can't be for regulations in some areas and not in others," he said. "We're for a free and open market and we hope that we create such compelling content that [cable operators] will be proud to carry it in [their] digital spectrum."

Murdoch's comments closed the four-day show that has been a whirlwind of cable content and product announcements. Aside from the cable industry's heavy-hitters, the conference floor was also peppered with some famous faces, including entertainment promoter Don King, top-ranked boxer Oscar de la Hoya, and O.J. Simpson's defense lawyer Johnnie Cochran.

The show also served as the final conference for Decker Anstrom as president of the National Cable Television Association. Anstrom will take the reins at The Weather Channel in August.