Is HBO’s Succession Based on Rupert Murdoch’s Media Empire? | Is Succession based on Rupert Murdoch?

HBO’s award-winning drama Succession centers on the Roy family, headed by the ruthless media mogul Logan Roy as he tries to choose an heir from among his self-interested children. With its warts-and-all glimpse into a powerful global media conglomerate, Succession invites inevitable comparisons to real media dynasties like Australian tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Fox Corporation. But how closely does Succession mirror the Murdochs and their internal power struggles?

Origin Story: Murdochs as Initial Inspiration

When crafting Succession, creator Jesse Armstrong purposely avoided basing it directly on any one real family. However, Rupert Murdoch proved an early creative springboard. As Armstrong explained to The New York Times:

“There’s something about Murdoch and the longevity of his reign and the Shakespearean quality about that family that seemed like really fertile territory.”

In fact, the parallels between Logan Roy and Rupert Murdoch appear frequently:

  • Both built media empires after emigrating to America
  • Both wield huge political influence through their conservative outlets
  • Both face fraught questions over choosing successors
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So clearly Murdoch’s saga of a global media dynasty colored Succession’s foundations. But is that where the similarities end?

Where Succession Departs from the Murdochs?

While Succession used the Murdochs as a jumping-off point, significant fictionalization separates the shows’ respective families.

Fictional Companies and Dynamics

For starters, whereas Murdoch oversees News Corp and Fox Corporation, Logan Roy heads the fictional Waystar Royco conglomerate, which also encompasses amusement parks, luxury cruises, and tech. This provides creative license for more outlandish plots.

Additionally, Succession exaggerates real-world corporate conflicts into shocking backstabbings and betrayals between the Roy siblings. Such outward hostility exceeds even the most strained Murdoch family relationships known publicly.

Depraved Characters as Satirical Caricatures

As biting satire, Succession also deliberately distorts its characters into unflattering caricatures compared to their real-life counterparts. For example, evil mastermind Logan dwarfs the subtler ruthlessness of Murdoch.

Likewise, possible successor Kendall is far more troubled and tortured than heir apparent Lachlan Murdoch. And Siobhan Roy’s ambition exceeds that of Elisabeth Murdoch, who has pursued independent media ventures outside her father’s empire.

“I don’t think we can just map the characters onto real-life people,” Armstrong noted in an interview.

So while echoes persist, Succession uses hyperbole in depicting its morally bankrupt protagonists.

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Where Could Succession Align with Murdoch Reality?

Despite inventing its own fictional dynastic drama, Succession still incorporates some uncanny echoes of the Murdochs’ trials in recent years.

Corporate Coups and Family Betrayals

In Season 1, Kendall tries overthrowing Logan but fails catastrophically. This storyline directly parallels Lachlan working with Rupert Murdoch to oust brother James Murdoch from News Corp over divisive business decisions.

Such coups reveal the ugly ends to which power grabs turn both fictional dynasties and media titans like the Murdochs.

Scandals Threatening Legacies

Eerily timed alongside Succession’s debut, sexual abuse scandals rocked Fox News, threatening the Murdoch empire’s reputation and bottom line.

While fictional, Waystar Royco faces similar investigations and existential crises in the show around criminal coverups. Once again,despite invented specifics, Succession finds itself mirroring dynamics plaguing real media conglomerates today.

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The Verdict: A Funhouse Reflection

Given such unambiguous initial inspirations yet frequent divergences, what ultimate links bind Succession to patriarchs like Rupert Murdoch?

Showrunner Adam McKay summarized it best, calling Succession:

“funhouse reflection of the Murdochs” that “distills the ugliest, most cringe parts of them.”

Through grotesque exaggeration yet faithful themes, Succession indeed extracts the most viscerally fascinating and damning qualities of billionaires like Murdoch. In that sense, it presents a “based on a true story” fable updated for the digital era, with chapter after gripping chapter of contemporary dynastic outrages tailor-made for binging.

So while inventive license prevents one-to-one comparisons between Roys and Murdochs, Succession undoubtedly encapsulates timeless truths around wealth, power, and family loyalty no less resonant when applied to existing empires like Murdoch’s. By coating real-world dynasties’ ugliest qualities in satirical sugar to help the drama go down, Succession makes an all-too-familiar medicinal meal irresistibly compelling.


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