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Disney / Fox deal could impact NASCAR coverage

The decision by 21st Century Fox to sell its TV and movie production units as part of a $52.4-billion deal with Walt Disney Co. means Fox will be the only broadcast network without a studio to supply its scripted shows.

That has current and former Fox executives and their competitors wondering what the network will look like - and whether it can have long-term viability - in the next Murdoch-owned entity, called "new Fox." The remaining assets include 28 local television stations plus cable channels Fox Sports 1, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network and Big Ten Network.

Company insiders have been hearing that the broadcast network will become more dependent on sports events, news programs and unscripted reality series. Such programming is largely watched live at the time it airs - which means viewers are more likely to see the commercials.

But as the new Fox company stands now, the network would have to license to sitcoms and dramas from outside studios. Unless it negotiates a stake in the programs it puts on its prime-time schedule, it will see no financial benefit beyond what it makes from their initial airings.

Many of the events Fox has the rights for on Fox Sports 1, such as Major League Baseball, college football, World Cup soccer and NASCAR, are likely to get more prime-time exposure on the broadcast network. (emphasis added)

But in the long term, a dependence on sports programming means Fox has less control over its destiny. Fox has its NFL package until 2022 [and NASCAR until 2024]. When the broadcast rights come up again, the network is certain to face stiff competition from technology companies such as Google and Amazon, which are expected to seek exclusive rights to show the games online.

--- Los Angeles Times ---