FOX’s latest exit of top talent could signal the possible sale of FOX Sports, according to an industry insider.
Recently, longtime American football commentating duo Joe Buck and Troy Aikman departed FOX Sports. The pair worked together and for FOX Sports for over 20 years. The popular tandem made the switch to ESPN. Buck and Aikman now call Monday Night Football for the upcoming 2022 NFL season.
Commentators and on-air talent switch networks fairly often. However, the details behind Buck and Aikman’s change are very interesting.
According to reports, FOX Sports allowed Buck to leave the network a year prior to his end of contract to join Aikman at ESPN. Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reported that FOX Sports permitted this move in exchange to televise the Purdue vs. Penn State college football game on September 1. Previously, ESPN held the rights to air the Thursday night game on its network.
“Because it’s a new window in a new game, (FOX is) going to be able to sell an added ad sales revenue target that’s in the millions. They’re going to make millions off of this.”
This stems from what each channel and provider wanted from the deal. FOX Sports prioritized the game. Meanwhile, ESPN targeted the commentary talent.
“I don’t want to say [the] deal is a win-win because they’re almost never win-win, but this is a game ESPN didn’t prioritize,” claimed Ourand.
“This is a game FOX really did want, and each network has 27 (Big Ten) games this year coming up. (Now) ESPN is going to have 26 Big Ten games. FOX is going to have 28 Big Ten games. And that is what they came up with in order for Joe Buck to leave his contract early and move to ESPN.”
FOX Sports makes millions of dollars on the acquisition of one college football game. Moreover, allowing Buck and Aikman to leave the network reportedly saves the company around $160 million.
A possible sale of FOX Sports
Speculation in the sports media following these decisions is that FOX could be set to make their sports section for sale. Eric Jackson, EMJ Capital hedge fund’s founder and president, claimed that the departure of Buck and Aikman shows FOX’s desire to cut costs.
“The fact that FOX Sports let Joe and Troy walk suggests that they are in cost-cutting mode. If that’s the case, it’s reasonable to guess whether Fox Corp is thinking of selling all of FOX Sports.”
Furthermore, an insider told Front Office Sports that “[The cost cutting] could mean [Fox] is going into acquisition mode.
“When you are selling off assets, you are trying to make yourself more attractive to a buyer or losing some weight so you can purchase something.”
FOX possibly selling their entire sports department may not be as far-fetched as it seems. Previously, the mammoth American broadcast company sold off all of its regional sports networks to Bally Sports in 2019. The decision to sell, however, wasn’t exactly down to FOX. The U.S. Department of Justice forced the company to make the sale following Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of 21st Century FOX.
Nevertheless, even if FOX does not sell their sports department, it is obviously clear that the company is making major cutbacks. Along with letting Buck and Aikman leave and selling their RSNs, FOX has also recently allowed their Thursday Night Football game to switch to Amazon Prime, backed out of their 12-year deal to televise PGA tournaments, including the U.S. Open, and even lost their UFC coverage in 2018.
Impact on soccer content and potential buyers
As far as FOX’s soccer content, the corporation has a lot of rights. Yes, some MLS matches are available on FOX Sports, as well as select U.S. men’s and women’s national team games. On the other hand, FOX Sports have a very valuable portfolio. For instance, that includes the FIFA World Cup, Euro 2024, Euro 2028, Copa America, Gold Cup and Women’s World Cup.
FOX Sports’ current media rights deal with Major League Soccer ends this year. Reports are that the broadcaster isn’t interested in renewing its rights to the domestic league. At the same time, FOX Sports have been cutting costs in its production of MLS games.
Although tech companies such as Apple and Amazon might be potential buyers should FOX decide to sell their sports division, the aforementioned Bally Sports, owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, could possibly become interested according to sources with Front Office Sports.
PHOTO: Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic/Getty
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