Major sports properties are moving toward more live streaming of games. Not everyone thinks this is a great idea.
At a time when major sporting events have never been more valuable, there is some concern that doing anything to potentially subtract television viewers—who are infinitely more valuable than online viewers right now—may not be without drawbacks.
One of those at least flagging the issue is Fox Sports President Ed Goren, whose division is deeply embedded in properties from the NFL to MLB to NASCAR to college football.
Goren's network doesn't have the rights to stream its NFL package that kicked off last weekend, as there are conflicts with both a DirecTV out-of-market package and affiliates. But Goren is also cautious about the explosion of online streaming and what it could mean to the Golden Goose—television ratings.
In a wide-ranging conversation with B&C's Ben Grossman, Goren spoke about streaming games, why the baseball standings are looking pretty good to Fox, and why NBC Sports and Olympics chief Dick Ebersol should be working in Washington, D.C.
Would you like to stream more events online at the same time as your network airings?
In today's marketplace, the big dog is viewership on network television and the ad revenue that generates. Even if you look at the tremendous success of the Olympics across multiple platforms, if it doesn't perform on NBC, no matter what the rest brought in, you couldn't run a business right now. So I think we can't lose track of the power of the mass audience and revenues that network television brings.
So does that mean you think online streaming of sporting events cannibalizes audiences now?
At this point I think that's debatable. Down the road it certainly could be a factor.
If the baseball season ended as we speak, the playoffs would be stocked with big market teams. That's not a bad thing for you.
Most definitely. Right now there is no question the markets and the teams in contention for post-season play are very appealing, not just as national entities like the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, but even from the perspective of our Fox O&Os where we have stations in markets like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and Phoenix.
Did the success of the recent Olympics make you more interested in acquiring the property?
We had discussions before the Beijing Olympics about involvement down the road, and there was an interest then, and maybe even more so now. But the Olympics continues a success story for major sporting events that may be unprecedented. I exchanged e-mails with [NBC Sports and Olympics chief Dick] Ebersol during the Olympics congratulating him and he responded how good it was for all of us.
How much did the Olympics price tag go up after this past outing?
You have to look at the full package, and this was sort of a perfect storm for ratings. But nothing seems to go down.
How did NBC do? What would you have done differently?
Nothing. I thought they had a hell of a run, and they made a lot of adjustments off of past years. For what Dick Ebersol was able to accomplish and the way he settled things with China and the IOC, if he could go to Washington, he could settle a lot of issues there, too.