Fox Sports Giving NFL "TNF" Equal Footing To Sunday Games
Fox Sports President & COO Eric Shanks said that the network’s new Thursday night NFL package is equally vital to the company as its core Sunday afternoon one. Fox’ newly signed package for Thursday night games, pegged at more than $3B for five years, will arrive with a series of planned broadcast enhancements, marquee-level matchups, and a firm commitment to make the weeknight slot a key focal point for the sport. “We’re so invested for the next five years in Thursday night, there is no game, at least in our package, that is too good to be on Thursday,” Shanks said. “We’re just as invested in Thursday as we are in Sunday. It’s just as important to us.” Fox Sports’ heightened investment in the NFL also further signals the network’s heightened corporate focus around live content. That new focus has been further crystallized by the proposed purchase by Disney of most of 21st Century Fox’ entertainment assets, leading to what Shanks called a “New Fox” based heavily around sports and news. “This starts with the strategic goal of being the leader in live. And the most valuable content in live, and really media in general, is the NFL,” he said. “So you have to have a big investment in the NFL.”
STILL STRONG: Like the Thursday night NFL games, the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Russia has also been branded by some critics as an overpay by Fox Sports, particularly without the participation by the U.S. team in this year’s tournament. But Shanks said the lack of the American squad is not a killer for the network. “As a fan, I wish the U.S. made it. But let’s not forget the eyes of the world are on the World Cup,” he said. “We think it’s the greatest sporting event in the world. We did have to make adjustments in our marketing and storytelling as we led up to this. But we’ve made those adjustments.”
* Shanks levied heavy praise on baseball, pointing in part to strong ratings in many local markets serviced by Fox regional sports networks, as well as dramatic seven-game World Series each of the past two seasons. He also pointed to efforts by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, Deputy Commissioner/Business & Media Tony Petitti and others around developing new generations of fans. “I really have great belief in the management at baseball … They’re really working hard to make sure that baseball is not only healthy today but set up for generations to come,” he said.
* Like many others, Shanks is closely watching developments around the broad legalization of sports wagering, even more than large-scale media mergers. “The sports wagering thing is the one that has real change with it Turner, AT&T and so forth, they all exist today,” he said, pointing to the proposed Time Warner-AT&T merger. "But what doesn’t exist today is sports wagering on a certain level.”