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Dec. 14, 2017 — Between a rock and a hard place

In the last couple of days, the announcement has come down that The Disney Company is buying a lot of media properties from News Corporation.

The sale is a convergence of a lot of movie and television and entertainment names, but it seems to me one that is being hastily put together as if events were about to conspire to change the landscape of the business forever.

It’s been said that News Corporation has been a colossal failure in terms of getting out in front of innovation. It managed to buy innovation in 2005 when it purchased MySpace, which, at the time, was the world’s biggest social media site.

Today, MySpace is seen as a relic of its old self, having long been surpassed by Facebook, Twitter, and any number of other competitors.

And News Corporation has also been surpassed when it has come to technology. There aren’t any entertainment partners willing to dance with 21st Century Fox in today’s partnership-driven digital marketplace.

But I think a series of scandals really has given News Corporation and head honcho Rupert Murdoch a bad name over the years. There was the phone hacking scandal which forced the closure of the tabloid News of the World in England. There was a series of sexual harassment scandals which entangled one of Murdoch’s most lucrative media properties, Fox News.

But what I think is driving the current sale to Disney is another kind of looming scandal: yesterday’s revelation that four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome, who rides on a trade cycling team sponsored by Murdoch, failed a drug test.

As little mercy is being afforded public figures accused of sexual harassment in the last few months, there’s even less mercy for athletes. The entire Russian Olympic team may be out of the Olympics, and a separate scandal has put into jeopardy the participation of six members of the national women’s ice hockey team.

Froome, like many in the cycling world these days, is claiming a medical usage exception for an anti-asthma medication found in his system. But, lest we forget, Lance Armstrong claimed a medical exemption for his testosterone levels in the months and years after his testicular cancer surgery.

Keep an eye on this sale. It could change the media landscape more than today’s FCC ruling on net neutrality — and for equally nebulous reasons.

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