New FOX sports network: More games, higher cable bill?

A member of the Fox Sports crew is seen on the sideline during a football game in New Jersey.

There is no shortage of athletics on television. There’s ESPN, the new-ish NBC Sports network, and various and sundry teams that have their own cable channels.

Today, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation announced it’s getting in on the game. The company is already in movies, publishing and cable news, but it’s still not satisfied.

"News Corp. looks at sports and says, ‘Look, that’s a market that we can exploit,’” Michael McCann says. He heads the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

Sports is a pretty safe bet. We can TiVo sitcoms. We can watch a whole season of “Homeland” in one weekend. But the game? According to David Berri, a sports economist at Southern Utah University, most of us want to watch it live.

“You will sit there, and you will sit there through all the advertisements,” he says.

A sports network needs sports, of course. Gabe Feldman directs the Tulane Law School Sports Law program, and he says that, when it comes to broadcast rights, FOX is in pretty good shape. Better shape than, say, NBC Sports. FOX already owns expensive rights to broadcast baseball, NASCAR, soccer and football.

According to Feldman, the next time a new TV contract comes up for renewal, the bidding war will be even fiercer.

“ESPN is in the middle of paying $1.9 billion a year for Monday Night Football,” he notes. “They now have another potential competitor there.”

Cable providers pay more to carry ESPN than any other channel, and if broadcast rights go up, odds are your cable bill will too.

Sports economist David Berri says News Corp. has ambitious plans, and it recognizes something important: You can’t just air games 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“People also seem to like, and I don’t quite understand this part...they do seem to like the whole sports discussion thing.”

ESPN has SportsCenter. Fox Sports 1 will have one of Notre Dame’s biggest fans. Regis Philbin will host “Rush Hour,” a sports talk show that will air every day.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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