Since news broke of Disney buying $52 billion worth of Fox assets, most of the attention has been focused on what it means for Disney as a company. That’s especially true on the sports side, as Fox’s regional sports networks were, financially at least, the centerpiece of the deal.
Fox very much remains a player in the sports world, even after this divestment. FS1 and FS2 are still part of the original company, as are the rights deals in place. Fox still has the rights to the next three World Cups, and now has two nightly hours of primetime network television to program, and no production studio to produce scripted shows.
That means live rights, with sports at the forefront, could actually see an increased presence on Fox television.
Some Fox Sports staffers hope the move means sports programming will be even more vital to the new Fox network and will take a bigger prime-time position on the Fox broadcast network. The idea is that Fox, which has two hours of prime time per night from 8 to 10 p.m., would use live rights such as sports, news and talent shows for prime time. After the transaction, the new Fox will be debt-free, which could give it the luxury to be in acquisition mode.
Think less investment in “Empire” and more in Red Sox-Yankees.
“My hope is that we’ll be a stripped down and more focused company that will be out there trying to acquire more rights,” one Fox Sports employee said.
Live rights are an expensive asset to acquire, of course, but as Ourand notes, the nature of the sale means this “new” Fox should have the financial flexibility necessary to do just about whatever they want to do. They’re not likely to act quickly, of course; you only have the money until you spend it, and considering the volatile nature of the entire broadcast model, it might behoove Fox to take things slowly.
“I see Fox as being more selective with the sports rights they are going to get,” said Daniel Cohen, Octagon’s senior vice president of media rights consulting. “I see Fox hunkering down and focusing on big properties that produce known results.”
It’s a rare reset button for a network in that they were able to essentially maintain the rights they wanted to maintain, while also hitting the reset button in terms of cash. But Fox’s continued relevance in the sports world depends on their choices going forward. It’s been a very odd 2017 for Fox, from a decision-making standpoint.
This deal just puts further importance on the decisions coming in 2018.