In a soft overall market, Fox said demand for its sports properties remains strong, but the company has no plans to put live sports on its Tubi streaming platform.
Speaking on Fox’s first-quarter earnings call with analysts Thursday, CEO Lachlan Murdoch said Fox’s focus on sports and news has insulated it somewhat from the weak ad market.
For football, Murdoch said, Fox was seeking high demand and above upfront pricing for the NFL and college football. There have been reports that high ratings have left a glut of inventory on the ad market.
“College football has never been more popular,” Murdoch said, with ad volume and prices rising. Advertisers “can see the value in this audience. Maybe it was underpriced in past years.”
Murdoch noted that increases in football this quarter will be offset by a disappointing World Series, which ended with the Texas Rangers beating the Arizona Diamondbacks in five games that generated record low ratings.
“Sometimes you get lucky and get a seven-game series with a matchup that excited the imagination of fans and sometimes you get less lucky,” he said. “We would have liked to have seen more games and more national excitement.”
While sports is strong, Murdoch said he didn’t see sports being a big part of its Tubi streaming platform.
“We don’t envisage having significant live sports on Tubi,” Murdoch said. Tubi will continue to focus on video-on-demand entertainment.
Revenue for Tubi was up 30% in the first quarter.
“Tubi will be the way our audience engages with entertainment in the future. It’s a core part of our business and a core part of our strategy,” he said.
Asked about Fox’s decision not to renew its deal for WWE SmackDown, Murdoch said Fox’s analysis showed the Friday-night series was not delivering the level of return on investment the network wanted, in terms of advertising revenue and impact on retransmission fees. (SmackDown will move to NBCUniversal’s USA cable network in 2024.)
Murdoch added that Fox was in the finals stages of renewing its deal with NASCAR, which has been exceeding expectations.
“We look forward to continuing that partnership,” he said.