Fox has been a holdout on the rush of subscription-based direct to consumer streaming services that have popped up over the last several years. Instead, much of the company’s streaming strategy has centered around the free, ad-supported Tubi and the Fox Sports app (which requires an authenticated login).
Speaking at the CAA World Congress of Sports (via the Sports Business Journal), Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks seemed to indicate that Fox wouldn’t be wading into those DTC waters quite yet, implying that the company was using their competitors’ growing pains as a potential strategy going forward.
“It’s kind of like they’re on the green putting, and we’re getting to read their putts on their dime and figure out where that world is going to go without having to put in the sunken costs, probably, that they are,” Shanks said during an on-stage interview at last week’s CAA World Congress of Sports in New York.
And while Shanks said that Fox’s rights deals do give the company the ability to offer content on a DTC basis, his optimism about the future of the long-declining cable bundle might further delay a Fox-centric DTC service.
All of Fox’s rights deal allow the network to offer programming via direct-to-consumer, said Shanks, although he doesn’t see that happening anytime soon. The reason: he predicted a small bounce back in cable’s subscriber count as consumers tire of spending so much on so many different streaming services.
“I’m so much of an optimist that I still think at some point it’s going to go back up,” he said. “We all know there’s too many direct-to-consumer products out there. … I still feel like at some point there’s going to be definitely a slowing [of streaming services], and maybe I’m so optimistic that I think that people will end up seeing the great value in those pay-TV bundles to come back to it.”
Sure, consumers are wary of subscribing to eight different streaming services and paying as much, or more, than they were for the old cable bundle. But that bundle still hasn’t fundamentally changed all that much, with lower introductory rates, spiking costs the longer you remain a customer, various fees and hidden costs, and being forced to pay for services you don’t use (I don’t think I ever used my cable company provided phone line in the years I subscribed to a bundle).
If cable companies are able to cut those costs and fees, maybe subscribers will stick around or flock back (which, to be fair, would also benefit Fox’s competitors like Disney). But if not, even with the increasing prices of ad-free streaming services, it’s tough to see cord cutters returning to the bundle.