Media Matters for America believes this is what Fox Corp. attempted to do in its new carriage negotiations with DirecTV (which ended with a deal over the weekend, with no terms disclosed). The media monitoring group said Fox was threatening to black out some of its channels -- including sports channels airing the 2022 World Cup as well as college and NFL football games -- if DirecTV did not agree to Fox's fee increases.
The timing is always interesting with these carriage contract deadlines -- always seemingly around the NFL season with its higher viewing.
Separately, a few days ago, a lawsuit from YouTube TV subscribers claimed Walt Disney is engaging in antitrust practices with regard to its ESPN sports content -- that contractually agreed to periodic price hikes to carry ESPN run in tandem with price hikes Disney institutes around its own virtual pay TV service, Hulu+Live TV.
Is this just about traditional and virtual TV providers complaining about arrogant and now hard-pressed legacy TV network groups, looking for every possible business leverage point to strong-arm distributors with higher costs? Or something else?
We wonder, then, why Google's YouTube TV would agree to those higher contractual fees -- and whether AT&T and private equity group TPG -- owners of DirecTV -- might cave in to such demands.
We know one thing: Sports rights fees continue to skyrocket -- not just the NFL, but other less engaging sports TV franchises -- because it's live, premium TV programming.
At a certain point, one might believe someone will pull the plug completely from the big sports-related networks. One gets the sense that something may be afoot. Slowly.
Over the last year or so, think about what has happened with YouTube TV, Hulu+Live TV, and Dish's Sling TV. They are also standing firm on not carrying regional sports networks offering thin- to-no profit margins -- even if they are the most popular networks on their services.
Where do the sports teams and RSNs go? Streaming, of course. But that can be financially stressful, in a highly competitive market.
At some point, there might be a moment to let go more sports TV programming -- even some more highly visible sports programming -- via legacy sports channels or otherwise. The NHL? Some college football? The PGA?
Does this sound crazy? Well, if profitability is a goal -- a touchdown or home run -- then a new game plan is needed. (And maybe some new sports business metaphors).
When does that time come? When there is a major inflection point -- where ESPN+, Fox Sports, NFL+ (or other sports-league owned businesses) offer up a trick play that somehow changes everything.
Your Hail Mary pass into the end zone usually shocks all.