Could the World Series move to cable in the future? You might scoff at the notion now, but Fox Sports president Eric Shanks didn’t completely debunk the notion in a conference call earlier this week, as reported by Capital New York.
“There will be an evolution down the road, maybe,” he said Monday in response to a reporter question about whether the program could ever air on cable.
Cue the pitchforks.
But is this really shocking, or even unexpected? Minus one NLCS game this year, the entire MLB Postseason was on cable, and the ratings actually fared pretty well between ESPN, Fox Sports 1, TBS, and MLB Network. Other sports have already moved the bulk of their premiere events to cable – including the BCS Championship Game and this year’s College Football Playoff. Two Stanley Cup Final games have traditionally aired on NBCSN. An NFL Wild Card playoff game will be aired on ESPN in January. In fact, the only league aside from MLB that airs its entire championship series slate on broadcast television is the NBA, which airs the Finals on ABC.
Yeah, moving the World Series to Fox Sports 1 would deprive anyone without cable of watching. But it would likely end up increasing carriage fees for Fox Sports 1. And in this industry, that’s key – it’s all about those dollar signs. This also could be a precursor of sorts to an a la carte Fox Sports option, like we’ve seen begin to sprout in recent weeks with HBO and CBS (though sports aren’t included with the CBS online package).
Considering the soccer rights Fox already has under their umbrella (Champions League, Europa League, and starting next year, MLS and Bundesliga), could a full-blown replacement for the much-maligned Fox Soccer 2 Go be in the works? It’ll be very interesting to see what happens, but imagine paying the $20 you normally would for the Fox Soccer package, but also getting access to the Fox Sports Go streaming package. It’s not ideal, and would alienate people who don’t care about soccer, but I wouldn’t be shocked if we start to see Fox and ESPN start working on standalone packages for users without cable subscriptions.