Simpsons' syndication will bring big cash to Murdoch's News Corp

Windfall from Simpsons syndication leaves News Corp high and dry in face of UK allegations.

Rupert Murdoch as portrayed in The Simpsons.
Rupert Murdoch as portrayed in The Simpsons.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. will return so much capital to shareholders, in part funded by The Simpsons syndication money, that it will more than make up for any settlement related to phone hacking by its newspapers The News Of The World and The Sun and fuel a bull market in the stock, according to an analyst.

"We think News Corp. has capacity/potential to return $15 billion of capital (34% of current market cap) to shareholders over the next three years" in the form of buybacks and dividends, wrote David Bank, media analyst for RBC Capital Markets, in a note Thursday.

"The potential cancellation of The Simpsons (in the next few years) and the subsequent syndication on cable could provide windfall profits for NWSA."

While 20th Century Fox Television re-signed the longest-running comedy on television for two more seasons in October, it is unlikely the run will go any further given the tumultuous negotiations that took place with the voice actors.

And here's why it will mean a windfall for the company within three years. The syndication agreement was signed years ago at a different time in the media landscape and only allowed Fox to sell the show to local affiliates.

Now, News Corp. could sell to cable stations such as TBS and Comedy Central and so-called over-the-top distributors like Netflix. Bank wrote in a note back in October that the company could easily get $1 million to $2 million per episode for the 500-plus episode library.

That means a few seasons of The Simpsons could cover a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission over the phone hacking that Bank estimates could amount to "tens-to-hundreds of millions of dollars."

RBC made News Corp. one of its top picks for the new year Thursday, forecasting a 20% increase in the shares to $21. The analyst also cited retransmission fees, growing ratings at its cable networks and expected record political spending as reasons to own the stock.

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