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FOX Sports’ latest cutbacks suggest possible sale, says insider

possible sale of FOX Sports

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.

Unexpected departure

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.

Ourand explained the transaction on the Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast.

“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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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Karl

    April 7, 2022 at 3:46 pm

    Just so I have this straight:

    Letting $23.2M/year (reported Buck’s Fox deal was $10M for 2021 and Aikman was at $13.2M/year) of commentators leave is a “major cutback” while:

    Fox’s NFL Sunday package goes from $1.1B/year this season to $2.2B/year next season (and Super Bowl rotation goes to every four years from every three); Fox’s MLB deal went from $525M/year in 2020 to ~$730M in 2021; Fox’s Big Ten rights are expected to go from ~$220M/year to ~$500M/year, and Fox is expected to bid to renew Pac-12 rights for another new couple hundred mill.

  2. JP

    April 7, 2022 at 11:02 am

    Lot of conjecture in that headline. The article also states that the cost cutting could be making room in advance of acquisitions.

    For what it’s worth, not outbidding ESPN to keep Aikman and letting Buck out of his contract a year early in itself can’t be considered just cost cutting moves. FOX knows people are going to watch their NFL broadcasts regardless of the announcers. Many viewers actually disliked Buck so seen as a win for some fans that he’s gone. Aikman also nothing special.

    Is NBC exploring a sale because they let Al Micheals go to Amazon? No, just a business decision to allow high priced ‘talent’ to leave when the cost is too much. Again, no one watches because of an announcer, they may tune out because of one though. Just need someone competent.

    • dave

      April 7, 2022 at 2:38 pm

      @JP, I agree, high weight placed on thin evidence. Al Michaels went from ABC to NBC and ABC continued to show sports. Mike Tirico went from ESPN to NBC and ESPN continued to show sports. As Buck and Aikman move from Fox to ESPN, it is altogether possible that Fox will continue to show sports.
      .
      I believe ESPN was under pressure (from NFL and fans) to upgrade their MNF production. Manningcast has been part of that effort. I suspect ESPN/NFL hope Buck-Aikman are closer to Tirico-Gruden than the rotating crews ESPN attempted. ESPN may have more reason to pay top-market (Aikman will get $18 million per year) than Fox.
      .
      The Joe Buck part is straightforward. Buck stated his desire to keep working with Aikman, meaning he was likely to leave Fox for ESPN when his contract expired in 2023. Entities agreed a small quid to speed up the inevitable by a year. Common business move.
      .
      Almost anything is for sale if price, timing, and terms are right. Fox may sell something, Fox may buy something, Fox may stand pat. I do not see Buck-Aikman as a harbinger.

  3. Eric T

    April 6, 2022 at 10:31 pm

    Fox Sports has been a disaster for a long time. The 2022 World Cup is going to be another broadcasting dud. I remember when people on this very website thought they were the best soccer destination possible.

    • Buckles

      April 7, 2022 at 12:51 pm

      Nothing wrong with how fox broadcast the WC 2018. How would ESPN have done a better job? Or nbc? And fox sports has many marquee properties and does arguably the best job on the NFL and many other properties.

      • Eric T

        April 7, 2022 at 5:04 pm

        Fox’s presentation of the NFL and MLB are okay, but nothing spectacular. And given their popularity in the US, you would expect Fox to do the bare minimum.

        ESPN did a much better job with the World Cup in 2010 and 2014 than Fox did in 2018. It wasn’t even close.

        • Buckles

          April 7, 2022 at 6:01 pm

          What do you consider spectacular? What could fox do to make it better? ESPN coverage isn’t anything great. They all use the same feed. The announcers? What is it? Everyone says fox is crappy with soccer but still no examples. I am respectfully asking.

  4. Yespage

    April 6, 2022 at 10:27 pm

    What is left of Fox Sports to purchase? Buying Fox Sports for their rights seems silly, just buy the rights.

    Sinclair is bleeding cash and way overleveraged. Their gambling idea was great until they forgot to talk to the leagues first. No way they can raise the capital to get a deal done.

  5. Chris Guardiano

    April 6, 2022 at 8:45 pm

    In my view, Sinclair buying FOX Sports would be a total disaster given Sinclair’s mismanagement of the former FOX Sports RSN’s under their ownership. Completing re banding them as Bally Sports and making them more gambling oriented has hurt their value. In addition none of the Bally Sports RSN’s are available on streaming services like Fubo or Sling because Sinclair thinks they are worth more by being only available on cable. If Sinclair buys FOX Sports,I would expect FS1, FS2 & maybe even OTA FOX being pulled from streaming services which would hurt us as soccer fans that are trying to watch the World Cup, Euros & Copa America.

    • UnitedFan 3478

      April 6, 2022 at 8:48 pm

      That’s why Disney would be way better than Sinclair. UEFA friendlies can move back to ESPN+, and the World Cup and Euro can move back to ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC.

      • Chris Guardiano

        April 6, 2022 at 9:01 pm

        @ UnitedFan 3478 great point. I would love to see the World Cup back on ESPN which did a great job with it for 20 years.

        • Buckles

          April 6, 2022 at 9:18 pm

          Fox is not selling and the government certainly wouldn’t let ESPN buy fox sports. Fox sports is necessary to promote fox programming and keep them relevant.

          • UnitedFan 3478

            April 6, 2022 at 9:42 pm

            Disney bought Fox Sports in Latin America and rebranded it to ESPN4. Buying Fox Sports would literally benefit them with NCAA coverage and national teams. They could get the entire packages of the Big 10, Big 12, and Pac 12. While the Big East would also join ESPN. The NFL games on Fox could also move to ABC if Disney does buy Fox Sports. And perhaps we could see the Euro 2024, 2028 and World Cup 2026 back on ESPN/ABC for the first time since Brazil 2014 and Euro 2021. We also wouldn’t need Fubo for UEFA anymore because of how ESPN+ can then get all of the UEFA friendlies back.

            • Karl

              April 7, 2022 at 4:03 pm

              Disney bought all of Fox globally except for US broadcasting operations. They didn’t leave the US broadcasting operations because they wouldn’t have wanted them, it’s because anyone who has ever googled “US antitrust law” knows it would never be allowed. Much like how Disney was required to sell the US RSNs (fka “Fox Sports (your state/region here)” now known as “Bally’s Sports”) by DOJ as part of government approval for the Disney-Fox acquisition and how the Mexican government forced Disney to sell Fox Sports Mexico to a new owner.

          • dave

            April 6, 2022 at 10:10 pm

            @Buckles is almost certainly correct that Disney cannot acquire FOX Sports in the US. The spinoff of RSN to Sinclair was required as a DOJ/antitrust condition when Disney purchased 21st Century Fox.
            .
            Never say never, but it is very unlikely that the US government would OK Disney acquiring FOX Sports in the US when it did not OK Disney acquiring FOX RSN. What happened in Latin America, Asia, etc., has no bearing on US antitrust enforcement.
            .
            “American consumers have benefitted from head-to-head competition between Disney and Fox’s cable sports programming that ultimately has prevented cable television subscription prices from rising even higher,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division

  6. Mercator

    April 6, 2022 at 8:45 pm

    Maybe they will hand it all off to Warner Discovery.

    • UnitedFan 3478

      April 6, 2022 at 8:47 pm

      Disney is more likely

    • Dustin Pappalardo

      May 9, 2022 at 11:47 pm

      If Warner Bros. DISCOVERY spinoff CNN I’ll bet they outright merge with Fox.

  7. UnitedFan 3478

    April 6, 2022 at 8:39 pm

    Hopefully, Disney buys Fox Sports and merges it into ESPN

    • Ra

      April 6, 2022 at 9:02 pm

      Fox Sports was sold to Disney in Latin America already. The Fox sports channel became ESPN 4.

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