Mark Evans is the Senior Vice President of Sales at Fox Sports. He recently spoke with The Big Lead about a variety of topics, including how Fox will challenge ESPN and CBS for rights. In this segment of our Future of Media series, he touched upon the future of streaming services and what it means for Fox, as well as the industry at large.
The rise of cable-cutting and streaming services has affected the landscape of sports broadcasting far more than anyone could have imagined even five years ago. Fewer people rely on the major sports broadcasting companies as streaming, legally or otherwise, becomes a more viable option to watch their favorite teams on the cheap.
The NFL has already taken a step to insert themselves into the streaming medium; their London games have been streamed on Amazon Prime, as well as some Thursday night games. But that might only be the beginning, according to Mark Evans, the SVP of Sales at Fox Sports. In an interview with The Big Lead, Evans said the question is which major sport will strike the first big deal with a non-traditional broadcasting company, not if it will happen.
“The NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA, the massive world of what the NCAA in both college basketball and football have become, [the question] is what major sport does their first significant deal?” Evans said. “And when I say significant, I mean not the NFL having Amazon broadcast one game in London at 11:00 A.M. ET to a couple million people. I’m talking about Monday Night Football, that package, as opposed to being on ESPN, being sold to Amazon or Google or Verizon and allowing them the purview of what has been an iconic window of a major sport broadcast by a non-traditional media company. That is coming. I don’t think it’s coming in the immediate future, so what will be interesting to see is which league takes that, not dip their toe in the water, but makes a major bet with one of those guys.“
Evans explained he believes Monday Night Football to be the most likely package to move in the NFL in large part because of the complications that come along with broadcasting the Sunday NFL package; there are so many factors that go into which parts of the country see what games in the 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. time slots that only a traditional broadcasting company can juggle that as of now because they have the infrastructure.
He said both Thursday Night Football and Monday Night Football have the greatest chance of going to a non-traditional media company when the league’s current TV deals expire for a few reasons.
“If there were one that I could see, it would be either Monday Night Football or Thursday Night Football. You know, Thursday Night Football right now is NFL Network for a handful of weeks and then us [Fox] for 11 consecutive,” said Evans. “Or, Monday Night Football, which used to be… I don’t want to say used to be more important, but it was kind of like a more iconic window. Monday Night Football was the thing, it was on ABC not ESPN and the reins have kind of tailed off there. There’s so much sports content now on the weekend, there’s a little bit of fatigue coming into Monday.”
It would take a lot for ESPN to relinquish their MNF rights, but when bidding hits the open market, it’s anyone’s game.
The sports world is changing fast, and how we consume sports content has changed along with it. In only a few years, we may watch Monday Night Football on Amazon or Google. With most of the NFL TV deals set to expire in 2022 (MNF is 2021), the next two years will be significant for broadcasting and sports as a whole.
In the final installment in this series, coming out tomorrow, we will examine the future of sports betting and broadcast.