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Could Warner, Discovery Merger Push Netflix Into Sports?

Sportico discussed whether Netflix could enter the sports media space to compete with other services.

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Courtesy: Brite Box Electrical

Monday’s news of AT&T merging WarnerMedia with Discovery sent waves through the industry. The sports sector is paying close attention with a big role to play in the streaming wars. Sportico chatted with media consultants Ed Desser and Pat Crakes about how the merger might change sports rights moving forward.

“It shows sports still matter—and will continue to matter—in a major way,” The president of Desser Sports Media said to Sportico. “You can’t really have a streaming service with broad appeal without a representative sample of key sports.”

AT&T punted on their media assets just three years after their $84 million acquisition of Time Warner. The deal expected to close next year includes a mix of CNN, TNN, TNT, Cartoon Network, HBO, and the HBO Max streaming service. Discovery’s assets combined with these properties would create the second-largest media company behind Disney. 

All of this as sports media rights continue to grow in value amidst a splintered entertainment space. Netflix recognized this last decade by injecting original content across the platform. It doesn’t get more original than live sports, but Desser said “It’s not in their DNA” to go after them. 

Crakes was a little more bullish on the prospects but indicated it would have to be a unique setup. “The most efficient way to do it is [for Netflix] to get together with someone else. It seems complicated to make acquisitions fast enough because the content simply isn’t available,” Crakes explained to Sportico.

The industry is torn on what the future might hold for live sports rights. There was a slight movement with the NFL rights this year and a big shift from NBC to ESPN and TNT for the NHL. As this merger finalizes in 2022, the new company will have a couple of years before their chance at a big pot of deals. 

The College Football Playoff, NCAA, NASCAR, Big Ten, and PAC-12, all expire in 2024. A tectonic shift away from ESPN, CBS, and FOX may not be likely, but it’s on the radar in this media environment.

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Greg Olsen To Partner With Kevin Burkhardt For Super Bowl LVII

“Last season was the first Burkhardt and Olsen worked together. They largely won rave reviews.”

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The deal isn’t done yet, but Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reports that Greg Olsen is on his way to joining Kevin Burkhardt in the top NFL booth at FOX. Although Tom Brady will take over that role after he retires and leaves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Olsen will spend at least this season on FOX’s A-Team.

Last season was the first Burkhardt and Olsen worked together. They largely won rave reviews.

Earlier this year, the former Panther told The Mac Attack on WFNZ in Charlotte that he was disappointed he didn’t get to call a postseason game. He will more than make up for that in 2023. As Burkhardt’s partner, Olsen is in line to be the analyst for Super Bowl LVII.

Marchand writes that we could get a taste of what is to come in February. He speculates that if the Buccaneers are not in the Super Bowl, it is possible Tom Brady could make his FOX debut, either in the booth alongside Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen or as part of the network’s studio show.

Now, FOX has to make a decision about it’s number 2 NFL booth. According to Marchand, Drew Brees is a candidate to be the analyst. Adam Amin and Joe Davis have emerged as candidates for the play-by-play role.

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Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX

“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”

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FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.

A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.

The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.

Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.

That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.

Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.

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FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars

“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”

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The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.

Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.

Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.

“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”

Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.

“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.

FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.

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