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Fox CEO James Murdoch offers advice to Apple, Facebook and Snap

"It's going to take a long time to really move the dial," he says of creating programming. Murdoch also critiqued the social media ad model.

James Murdoch
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

James Murdoch has some advice for non-media companies looking to enter the space: be tolerant of failure and have patience. 

That goes for companies "dabbling" in TV content production. Namely, Apple.

"Going piece by piece, one by one, show by show, it's going to take a long time to really move the dial and have something," Murdoch said in reference to the tech giant's programming platform. "I do think that's going to be very challenging." 

Murdoch was speaking during Recode's Code Conference, which is being held this week in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. 21st Century Fox has become a crucial chess piece for Hollywood giants as they mount a defense against digital heavyweights like Netflix and Amazon. Tech companies are pouring investment into making TV and film -- Netflix alone has an $8 billion content budget this year. Facing these new deep-pocketed competitors, traditional media titans have scrambled to combine into ever bigger Goliaths.

Disney sealed a deal to buy most of Fox in December with a $52.4 billion deal, only for Comcast to announce this month it was close to making a higher bid to undercut Disney and buy Fox instead.

This has been a dizzying period of merger moves in tech and media. In addition to Disney's deal for Fox, Comcast is trying to undermine Fox (yes, the same Fox) to win 61 percent of UK television company Sky TV,  and AT&T is trying to buy TV programmer Time Warner despite government opposition.

According to the Journal this month, Murdoch will likely start a media-focused venture capital fund if the Disney deal clears. 

"I think it's time to do something new," Murdoch said at Code Conference.

When asked why 21st Century Fox decided to sell to Disney instead of to Comcast, Murdoch said they have an agreement with Disney that they think will be good for shareholders. If the board is asked to consider a different offer from somebody else, "we'll deal with that as we go."

Murdoch also critiqued two other tech giants: Facebook and Snap. He said they needed to decide whether they have a right to maximize profitably around customer privacy, and if the social media ad model is driving the right behavior. Suggesting users can buy themselves out isn't the right next question to ask, he added.

Murdoch also raised concerns about having a platform with billions of people who can be manipulated by neo-Nazis, foreign governments and political actors.

"From a national security perspective as well, you really worry about this kind of a platform," he said. "They look less like an ad business and more like an attack service."

CNET's Joan Solsman contributed to this report.

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