New York -- Live sports has taken a lot of blame recently for driving up customers' cable bills, with rights deals being signed at record numbers. Randy Freer, copresident and COO, Fox Sports Media Group, isn't buying that notion.
"There's a reason they call it 'must-have' programming," Freer told B&C executive editor Dade Hayes during NewBay Media's Sports Business and Technology Summit on Wednesday. "If it's must have, it can't cost too much."
"This theory that it's all about sports is ridiculous," Freer continued, arguing that there's a lot of other programming he has to pay for that he doesn't watch. "We participate in an incredibly competitive business."
In fact, Freer argued that sports is even getting the full respect it deserves. "Sports is undervalued and it continues to be," he said. "When you look at the cost of actually going to a sporting event vs. watching every event you're getting at home, it's still an incredible bargain."
He said that in most markets, sports networks are among the highest rated -- and he's not talking about ESPN. "Regional sports networks today in most markets have become one of the top two or three most-watched outlets [there]."
Fox is 59 days out from its much-ballyhooed launch of its national cable network Fox Sports 1, which could give ESPN its first major competitor in a marketplace it has had a considerable lead in for years. "It's a sprint at this point," says Freer about the run-up to the launch.
Coinciding with the Fox Sports 1 launch will be the company's first TV Everywhere offering Fox Sports Go. "We've been probably behind in many ways over the years," admitted Freer about Fox's adoption of second-screen technology. "You want people to be engaged as possible with your content."
Next February, it will be Fox's turn to televise the Super Bowl. The past two years, NBC and CBS have offered live-streams of the big game. "We're still working with everybody both internally and externally on that," said Freer. "It's a question mark if the TV Everywhere authenticated model can handle the volume needed for the Super Bowl."