As the networks negotiate with the NFL over extending their broadcast contracts through 2021 at considerably higher prices, it seems the network bosses are just gushing about how much they love the league. First it was CBS Corporation CEO Les Moonves telling the UBS 39th Annual Global Media and Communications Conference in New York that the price is going up for an “unbelievable property.” Now News Corporation COO Chase Carey has followed up with his own pitch for a “fabulous franchise” at the UBS confab.
“The NFL is a fabulous franchise. We’ve been in business with the NFL for almost 20 years. Its value in the marketplace is truly unique,” Carey said on Wednesday (12/7). “In an increasingly fragmented world it not only has a strength that distinguishes it, but it is actually getting stronger. Its ratings in the past five years are stronger than they were the five preceding years. The ad sales for the NFL have continued to have incredible strength. So the franchise is very important to us. It’s something we value greatly.”
So, as the negotiation take place – although Carey didn’t talk directly about those talks – he made it clear that News Corporation is ready to pay the piper to keep the NFL on Fox. “It is certainly our goal to have it continue to be a centerpiece of what we do. Ultimately, there’s a cost associated with it, which always makes you swallow hard. That price is going to be determined by what the value of it is and what the competition around it [is]. And those are the dynamics you deal with and try to make judgments looking at what we think the ad sales are coming out of it and how it is important to the larger whole,” he explained.
While calling the NFL a great partner, Carey acknowledged that sports is “a double-edged sword,” drawing big audiences but also carrying big costs. “The NFL is the ultimate double-edged sword – that has an enormous importance and power in the marketplace, but a cost associated with that that is clearly unique,” Carey told the investor conference.
RBR-TVBR observation: While we speak today of the Big Four networks, people who have been in the business a while will recall that it used to be the Big Three, with Fox as an also-ran that got little attention. That all changed in 1993 when Fox outbid CBS to win the NFC portion of the NFL television rights.