The latest round of merger/consolidation/takeover of the corporate media giants could result in the end of one of sports broadcasting’s great brands.
According to multiple reports, 21st Century Fox (née News Corp.) is pushing to acquire rival giant Time Warner. Even after an initial $80 billion bid was rebuffed, Fox and its leader Rupert Murdoch are said to be “determined and unlikely to walk away anytime soon” (NYT, 7/16). None of that is to say a deal is inevitable; among the numerous mega-deals over the past two decades are a few that fizzled — including Comcast’s attempted takeover of Disney in 2004.
Much of the talk surrounding a potential Fox acquisition of Time Warner has focused on sports and with good reason. Through Turner Sports, Time Warner has one of the most impressive sets of sports rights on cable television — most of the NBA Playoffs, half of the MLB Postseason, and with CBS the entire NCAA Tournament (including the championship game on TBS starting in 2016).
Adding Turner Sports’ haul to the existing Fox Sports line-up — the rest of the MLB playoffs, the NFL, NASCAR and college football — would turn the latter into the dominant player in TV sports. ESPN would still be the leader in many ways, but FOX and Fox Sports 1 would have a virtually unmatched portfolio.
For all the talk of the rigors of competition, media mergers have a habit of reducing options for consumers and risk for the surviving companies. Already, sports TV is dominated by a handful — Fox, Turner, CBS Sports, NBC Sports and the colossus ESPN. It is hard to think of a major event that does not air on a network affiliated with those five.
Such a move would be a boon to 21st Century Fox and a major loss for sports television. Turner Sports has been one of the most successful alternatives to ESPN and is generally well-regarded. Despite being unaffiliated with any of the Big Four broadcast networks, Turner Sports has managed for decades to acquire some of the biggest blue-chip properties in sports (even the NFL in the 1990s). It has the longest relationships of any broadcaster with the NBA (since 1984) and Major League Baseball since (1977), and as of late has been in the mix for most major rights packages. In upcoming negotiations with the NBA, Turner is widely expected to hold off Fox to retain its media rights.
A potential merger would wipe out both a competitor for Fox and an alternative for viewers, making the sports TV business a little less risky for the remaining giants. Fox would not be the only one happy to see Turner Sports go — ESPN would be happy to no longer see comparisons between its NBA studio show and Inside the NBA, and all the networks would presumably be glad to have one less rival driving up rights fees.
Not too long ago, viewers had a few other options. Before Comcast acquired NBC, Versus aired the NHL playoffs and part of the finals. Before NBC and Universal were united under the same umbrella in 2004, USA Network had its own sports brand — airing tennis’ U.S. Open and at one point the NBA. The old Nashville Network aired NASCAR races throughout the 1980 and 1990s, losing rights not long after being acquired by CBS Corporation. To be sure, the ‘big five’ sports broadcasts still had the bulk of the events, but there were other combatants in the mix.
Now, the threat exists of the big five turning into the big four. CBS and NBC would still be formidable, but the industry would primarily turn into a battle of Goliaths between ESPN and FOX. Such a result would benefit few, outside of the corporate boardrooms!
Few mourned the loss of Versus (now NBCSN) or noticed when USA and TNN (now Spike TV) phased out their sports coverage. Turner Sports, a giant in its own right, would be a different story. The prospect of a strengthened Fox doing battle with ESPN is interesting, but significantly outweighed by an increasingly shrinking marketplace for the viewer.(sports media watch)
How will this affect the NASCAR fan, or for that fact, the sports fan in general?
The answer is quite basic.
Less competition means less choices. In this particular instance, if 21st Century Fox (née News Corp.), aka Rupert Murdock, acquires the Time Warner properties, that will give 21st Century Fox (Rupert Murdock) an even larger stranglehold on an it’s already dominant influence of the news media of the world, but also 21st Century Fox could have a very large control on the sports media, globally! Remember that News Corp. not only owns and operates all the FOX media properties in the USA, but also this corporation additionally owns many key newspapers throughout the world, allowing it to dramatically influence the global news media!
It is the opinion of WOMR that the purchase/takeover of Time Warner, and all it’s properties, by 21st Century Fox/News Corp./Rupert Murdock, would have a gigantic negative impact on both the global news arena, as well as, the sports arena!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!