News Corp. COO Chase Carey said reports that the company would convert its Speed service to a national sports network that would compete with ESPN were “rumors and speculation” at this point.
The latest round of stories about a new national network came amid word that News Corp.’s Fox was nearing a new deal with Major League Baseball that would give it rights to televise more games than under its current pact.
“We obviously haven’t announced anything,” said Carey, speaking at the Goldman Sachs 21st Annual Communacopia Conference in New York Thursday.
Carey did say “We do like the sports business,” adding that the company’s under-developed networks like Speed and Fuel “do give us a real opportunity to do some really exciting things.”
But he added that “people have said we’re going after ESPN. ESPN is in a different game. I think for us the real opportunity is to build intelligent businesses.”
The cost of sports rights has exploded, but that’s a reality that must be managed because must-see programming is becoming a more important part of the television business.
“I think in this world, hits are just going to continue to get more important in every area, whether it’s hits in news, hits in entertainment, or hits in sports,” Carey said. “And probably there are no stronger hits than sports I think the value of that unique content will continue to really drive a lot of things around it and as all these platforms evolve, it is that unique content where I think disproportionately the value will accrue.”
On the other hand, less distinguished content will suffer: “I think the world will get more competitive. I think this is a great industry with real growth, but I think that competition is going to have winners and losers and I think the winners will be those that have breadth and strength and unique hit content.”