01/28/20: FOX Sports CEO Eric Shanks discusses the company’s year, the NFL and the road ahead

 

 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

FOX Sports is going big from Miami as the network prepares for its presentation of Super Bowl LIV on Sunday, marking its ninth Super Bowl overall and offering more than 100 hours of programming across FOX, FS1 and FOX Deportes. Super Bowl Sunday alone will see FOX carry more than seven hours of pregame programming from three separate locations leading into the game at 6:30p. The matchup between the Chiefs and 49ers caps a historic year for the company, which included the sale of its sister divisions and RSNs, but also the company’s best viewership of the NFL in three years, the launch of Friday Night SmackDown, the debut of FOX Bet, the Women’s World Cup, a reimagined approach to college football, and more, in addition to the company’s best-ever digital video consumption year in 2019.

Cynopsis Sports spoke with FOX Sports CEO and Executive Producer Eric Shanks about the NFL season, the biggest opportunities in sports and the upcoming launch of the XFL.

Shanks on the approach of post-sale FOX Sports: For those of us in sports here, our perspective never shifted. We continue to want to have the best sports portfolio in media and the best people to produce those events. I think what’s happened is that the makeup of FOX Corp. changed and live sports and live news made up a higher concentration of the programming and the value inside of FOX Corp. that it did before. So, I guess I would say that sports is taking an even more prominent role than we had before and that really dovetails with what you are seeing in the industry in that advertisers are valuing sports more than ever as well in the entertainment marketplace.

On the most important trend impacting sports: I think the most important trend is the move toward data and sports wagering. Inside of live sports, everybody is seeing the consistent rollout of wagering and what that is going to mean for people’s engagement with the stories that they love. A lot of that is driven not only by wagering as well as this explosion of new data from almost every sport today and I think that we are really just at the beginning of that trend because sports wagering is really only available in, I think, 20 states now and not all of those are mobile.

On opportunities in wagering: We are really excited about being in on the ground floor of sports wagering. I think we were aggressive with our big move into being as invested in sports wagering as we possibly can be right now in the US. Right now, with the states that we are legal in, I’d say it looks very promising and I’d say we learned a lot through FOX Bet. We feel really good about the investments we’ve made on the ground floor.

On what surprised him in 2019: The most pleasant surprise was the fact that our ad sales team, run by Seth Winter, was able to come up with a strategy that led us to sell out our inventory at the Super Bowl before Thanksgiving. That was the first time in a long time that the Super Bowl was sold out by then, plus we were fetching prices up to $5.6 million dollars. So that was a great surprise.

On FOX’s approach to the Super Bowl: We use the same philosophy that we take with our big events and our job is magnified. We sit down as a group and reiterate with producers and talent that this is the one day of the year where everything we do will be about celebrating America and celebrating football as the country comes together for the biggest event of the year. For the entire week that we are down there and especially on gameday, if it doesn’t celebrate America and it doesn’t celebrate football, it doesn’t make the show. When it comes time to do the game on Sunday, I think we do it bigger and better than everybody else.

On growth of NFL numbers: I think it is fantastic to see growth across the board. I wish that FOX could take the credit for it, but I think that all of the networks deserve credit for the storytelling they do in their own unique ways. I think a lot of us felt the impact of brands like the Cowboys going deep into the season, brands like Green Bay also going deep. In addition, time marches on and there is this crop of great young quarterbacks that have captured the nation’s attention. Plus, the matchup we have in the Super Bowl in incredible. So, it is a combination of great brands going deep and then great quarterbacks who form a magical combination.

On the launch of the XFL: I think that the country’s appetite for high-quality football doesn’t go away after the Super Bowl and I think FOX is going to be front and center in delivering on even more football for the ten weeks after the Super Bowl. There is a lot that the XFL has going for it, from their experience of having done it before and knowing what it takes this time around. They are very focused on their media partners in both us and Disney in creating appointment-viewing windows each and every week. Clearly, they are aware of how to become sustainable in order to get the league up and going.

PROGRAMMING

Speaking of FOX Sports, the company and Concacaf agreed to an exclusive multi-year U.S. English-language rights deal, anchored by the 2021 and 2023 Gold Cups as well as the Men’s and Women’s Olympic Qualifiers and Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League. English-language coverage of the Gold Cup will remain exclusively on FOX Sports in the U.S. in 2021 and 2023. “FOX Sports is an excellent partner for Concacaf and we are extremely pleased they have invested in our rights across so many competitions, beginning with what should be an exciting Women’s Olympic Qualifiers,” said Concacaf President, Victor Montagliani. “They have an outstanding track record of delivering high-quality football coverage that reaches big audiences making this great news for fans, international teams across the region and clubs competing in our Champions League.”

The NBA announced that the matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the LA tonight at Staples Center has been postponed. According to the league, the decision was made out of respect for the Lakers organization, which is grieving the tragic loss of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people in a helicopter crash on Sunday. The game will be rescheduled at a later date.

Meanwhile, NBA on TNT will present a tribute to Bryant with a one-hour pregame show at 7p with studio coverage live from STAPLES Center in LA. Inside the NBA’s Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith joined by Dwyane Wade, Candace Parker, Steve Nash and other special guests. The network’s pregame, halftime, and postgame coverage will all be primarily focused on Bryant.

FOX Sports confirmed that the network will run with a two-person booth for its primary NASCAR Cup Series coverage in 2020, as Mike Joy returns as play-by-play announcer to join analyst Jeff Gordo, according to NASCAR.

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay will join ESPN as a special guest analyst for the network’s four-hour Postseason NFL Countdown pregame show for Super Bowl LIV in Miami, joining host Suzy Kolber, analysts Louis Riddick and Steve Young and Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter on Sunday from 10a-2p.

Meanwhile, CBS Sports HQ tackles Miami with live updates throughout the day from several locations including Radio Row. On game day, viewers can watch live pregame coverage, including picks and advice from the SportsLine team and reports from Hard Rock Stadium. Each day, original programming on CBS Sports HQ kicks off at 8a with Morning Buzz, followed at 10a at Fantasy Football Today. At 2p, Pick Six will run until 4p where viewers can join the HQ Happy Hour. At 6peach evening, SportsLine will deliver metrics-driven analysis and advice on all of the day’s matchups plus the biggest news heading into Sunday. Penske, the Official Transportation Partner of CBS Sports HQ on the Road, will sponsor live coverage from Radio Row all week.

WPT locked in a new distribution deal to air the World Poker Tour television show in syndication across 15 million additional homes in the United States. The deal includes 22 markets across all regions of the country, including KDOC-TV in Los Angeles, KBPX-TV in Houston, and KOOL-TV in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Birds of a Different Game: The ‘80s Cardinals will debut on MLB Network on Tuesday at 8p with John Goodman narrating the MLB Network Presents documentary, which will look back at how the St. Louis Cardinals “played a different brand of baseball to dominate the National League in the 1980s.”

The Olympic Channel revealed coverage plans for the Boxing Qualification Events for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The global media platform will serve the exclusive worldwide digital rightsholder for the five qualifying events taking place between February and May 2020 and include live streaming of all women’s and men’s bouts across all weight categories from the first day of competition through the finals for each of the four Continental Events and the final World Qualification Event.

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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

UniFirst Corporation is partnering with 12-time NASCAR Cup Series champions Hendrick Motorsports and unveiled a new car and driver for the 2020 season in Chase Elliott at the helm of the all-new No. 9 UniFirst Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. “I’m really looking forward to having UniFirst join the No. 9 team this season,” says Elliott. “We are very fortunate to have such a great lineup of partners and I think they will be a great addition. Those UniFirst colors are going to look great at Phoenix.”

DIGITAL, DATA & TECH

Twin River Worldwide Holdings and FanDuel Group tied up a market access partnership to bring the FanDuel Sportsbook app and online sports betting experience to the state of Colorado. The FanDuel Sportsbook online and app experience will be available for residents and visitors to Colorado in the coming months with the announcement coming on the heels of Twin River announcing the acquisition of three casinos in Colorado. Golden Gates, Golden Gulch and Mardi Gras are located in close proximity to one another along a half mile strip of casino and casino-hotel.

INTRALOT and Sportradar entered an agreement for a sports betting partnership for the US market. Under the terms of the deal, Sportradar will provide INTRALOT with all of its pre-match and live data requirements, including the official data feeds from all major US leagues. In turn, INTRALOT will supply this data to lotteries in the US including Washington DC, Montana, New Hampshire and New Mexico.

ESPORTS

With week one under its belt, the Call of Duty League formally unveiled its lineup of sponsorship deals for its inaugural season, with partners that are set to include MTN DEW AMP Game Fuel, PlayStation, Astro Gaming and, SCUF Gaming, returning partners in Call of Duty esports. In addition, the league is also adding the U.S. Air Force for 2020. MTN DEW AMP Game Fuel returns to Call of Duty esports in a multi-year agreement which designates the drink as the official beverage of the Call of Duty League, the Call of Duty League City Circuit and Call of Duty Challengers. PlayStation 4 was named the official platform of the Call of Duty League and the official partner of Call of Duty Challengers. The U.S. Air Force. Meanwhile, inked a one-year agreement, that will see the military branch activate on-site at League weekend events and be featured in League broadcasts including sponsorship of a “Match Metrics” broadcast feature.

Activision Blizzard Esports announced the promotion of Jon Spector to Vice President, Business Operations and Product Strategy, Overwatch Esports. In this expanded role, Jon will continue to manage the day-to-day operations of the league, leading both the Team Business Operations and Franchise Strategy teams in addition to being responsible for overseeing Overwatch League rules, governance, tournament structure, play formats and delivery platforms.

OverActive Media and Universal Music Canada locked in a multi-year strategic partnership that will see both companies creating content and co-existing at the intersection of esports, music and culture. The multi-year partnership will include select music from UMC artists in OAM original content pieces, official music playlists curated by Toronto Defiant and Toronto Ultra players, team walk-out music during Overwatch and Call of Duty live broadcasts, UMC artist performances at event weekends in Toronto, and both brands will come together to launch official Defiant and Ultra DJ searches in the coming months.

The Overwatch League’s upcoming 2020 Opening Weekend is seeing the league partner with agency Psyop to debut “action-packed promotional videos to hype up fans leading up to the Opening Weekend.” The new campaign launched yesterday

INDUSTRY & ROSTER MOVES

The Professional Fighters League named Jim Tucker as Vice President of Global Brand Partnerships. In his new role, Jim’s primary focus will be securing new global brand partners for the PFL, building on a portfolio that includes Anheuser Busch In-Bev, GEICO, SeatGeek, Rich Energy and more.

THE MAIN EVENT

Celtics/Heat on TNT at 7:30p.

Here’s to Top Women in Media!

May we know them.
May we be them.
May we NOMINATE them.

You don’t have to be a woman to recognize the
extraordinary women moving our industry forward.

NOMINATE YOUR COLLEAGUE TODAY

Nomination deadline= Thursday, April 16.

On This Day
1960: The NFL announces franchises for the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings.

In the Know
The record for most consecutive appearances in the Super Bowl belongs to Gale Gilbert, who went to five in a row as a member of which two teams? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question
Which brand launched a memorable “Whassup?” campaign during the Super Bowl in 2000? Answer: Budweiser. Kudos: Eric Zappia-Quantum Media Solutions Group/NY; John Morgan-SpotX/NY; Lori Paterson-Spectrum Reach/NY; Evan Kavanagh-Simplifi/NY; Sonia Durr-Carat USA/Atlanta; Mike Wexler-Moroch/Atlanta; Jim Snider-jVISION/Toronto; Brianne Maciejowski-Miles Partnership/New Orleans; Tom Doherty-Starcom USA/Chicago; Travis Wacker – ESPN Chicago/Chicago; Barb Throm-Stealth Creative/Saint Louis; Rich Wolfe-Lone Wolfe Press/Scottsdale; Dave Sikula-San Francisco State University/San

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