News Corp in ‘advanced negotiations’ with AI companies over access to content, CEO says

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News Corporation is in advanced negotiations with artificial intelligence companies over their use of its content and will prioritise negotiation over litigation to finalise deals, according to the company’s global chief executive, Robert Thomson.

The comments, made at the company’s quarterly earnings briefing, come as media companies around the world raise concerns over how they will be compensated for content already being used to train AI products.

Thomson said the media conglomerate preferred “courtship to courtrooms” to strike agreements, before adding that the “AI world is replete with content counterfeiters”.

“Those crucial negotiations are at an advanced stage,” he said.

“We are hopeful that again News Corp will be able to set meaningful global precedents with digital companies that will assist journalists and journalism, and ensure that [generative AI] is not fuelled by digital dross.”

Largely unknown just over a year ago, OpenAI’s ChatGPT has become a fast-growing and well-known chatbot and ushered in a new era in artificial intelligence that includes Google’s Bard chatbot.

Thomson specifically commended OpenAI and its chief executive, Sam Altman, in his comments.

Publishers are taking different approaches to the rise of AI-powered tech companies, with some striking deals while others seek damages. The New York Times has sued OpenAI and Microsoft over the use of its content to train the large-language model systems, in a move that could see the media company compensated billions of dollars.

The Guardian has blocked OpenAI from accessing its content.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press struck a licensing deal last year with OpenAI for access to part of its archive.

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News Corp, a US-listed media conglomerate which owns mastheads in the US, UK and Australia, along with book publishers, subscription television and real estate advertising assets, has consistently said it sees opportunities ahead as it expands the use of cost-saving AI-produced content.

The company, part of Rupert Murdoch’s sprawling empire, now generates more than half its revenue from digital streaming, marking a shift from its print history.

News Corp’s revenue lifted 3% in the last three months of 2023 to $US2.6bn, backed by growth in its business information unit Dow Jones, digital real estate portals and rebounding book publishing business.

It recorded lower advertising revenue in its news media unit, a division that includes the Sun and the Times in London, the New York Post and The Australian.

Revenue at News Corp’s Australian business fell 6%, driven by lower advertising income. The company’s digital subscriber base in Australia ticked up to 1.05m, from 1.01m a year earlier.

“News Corp again saw growth in both revenue and profitability this quarter as we continue to realise the collective benefit of our strategic shift to digital and subscription revenues, and away from sometimes volatile advertising revenues,” Thomson said.

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