Fox goes for billion dollar touchdown

WHEN News Corporation's Fox Broadcasting Company agreed to pay dollars 1.58bn ( pounds 1.06bn) for the television rights to cover the next four seasons of the National Football Conference, many in the TV industry goggled in amazement. Fox, they said, had overpaid.

But Fox and Rupert Murdoch, the News Corp chairman, clearly disagree. Since signing the football deal in late December they have been on a spending spree to bring in technical staff and commentators, pushing up costs in some areas to previously unseen levels.

Earlier this week, Fox hired the sports commentator John Madden, a former football player and coach of the Oakland Raiders, for a package reported to be worth dollars 30m over four years. Mr Madden is recognised for his technical knowledge of the game as well as his down-to-earth and entertaining commentating style, but dollars 30m puts him in the same earnings bracket as Troy Aikman and Jim Kelly, the two quarterbacks who will be starring for the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills in tonight's Superbowl.

The package is also more than twice what Mr Madden had earned at CBS, which is now without football for the first time since it started broadcasting games in 1956. Mr Murdoch met Mr Madden personally and won him over with reassurances that Fox will be making a big commitment to its football coverage. This means spending more big money, including expensive contracts for Mr Madden's co- commentator at CBS, Pat Summerall. And the former star quarterback Terry Bradshaw has also been hired from CBS to anchor the Fox game day studio show, reportedly doubling his CBS salary.

Not surprisingly, many are questioning whether Mr Madden is worth dollars 30m, and whether Fox is going to lose hundreds of millions of dollars on the venture. One sports columnist on the New York Post recently risked the ire of his proprietor - Mr Murdoch - by writing that 'to pay someone dollars 7.5m per year to call 20 football matches actually would serve more to question Fox's credibility than solidify it'.

But television industry analysts say it is necessary to look beyond the money made or lost on the football deal itself, and view the broader picture at Fox, which has been building itself up over the past few years to become a serious challenger to the big three networks - CBS, NBC and ABC.

'The only way to justify the current investment in NFL football is to see what it does for the overall Fox network,' says Christopher Dixon, media analyst at Paine Webber. 'Sunday afternoon football can provide a promotional base and give Fox much more credibility in the eyes of the public, and even more important with advertisers.'

Commentators on Sunday afternoon football games always give plugs to the evening schedule, and the CBS Sunday evening line-up of 60 Minutes, followed by Murder, She Wrote has benefited enormously from following football - and being plugged during the games.

Analysts point out that this effect is worth even more to Fox than to the longer-established networks, since it has more need to familiarise viewers with its schedule, and get them used to switching on to its channel.

And from the advertising standpoint, companies such as beer manufacturers or auto makers will now be attracted to Fox by the important demographic group of males aged between 18 and 45, who make up the biggest slice of the football audience. 'What Fox is doing is creating more valuable inventory than they previously had,' says Mr Dixon at Paine Webber. An advertiser which liked the audience for The Simpsons, but found it to be a small media buy standing alone, can now allocate a large slice of advertising dollars to Fox in return for a mixture of football and other programming slots.

American football is very big business. Advertisements during the Superbowl, which is being carried this year by NBC, cost a staggering dollars 900,000 for a 30-second slot. And earlier this week, Wayne Huizenga, chairman of the Blockbuster Entertainment video store chain, agreed a deal that will give him control of the Miami Dolphins and price the franchise at around dollars 160m.

Fox has taken an expensive gamble, but there is a lot to win.

(Photographs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing