Broadcast television, says Fox Sports president Ed Goren, is the "golden goose" for the National Football League. But if the league keeps expanding to the Internet, mobile platforms and beyond, "they're going to kill the golden goose," he says.
Speaking at a Milken Institute conference in Los Angeles, Goren warned that wide distribution of football programming on new media could narrow profits — both for the NFL and the television networks that carry its games.
Multiplatform involvement by the NFL today is not an issue, Goren said, as Fox saw major ratings gains last fall. But if the NFL, Major League Baseball and NASCAR continue to look beyond traditional television for audiences, a snowball effect may occur.
"Our ratings will go down, our ad sales will go down and the leagues can find another sucker," Goren told the conference. At the end of the day, Fox will be more reticent to pay billions in rights fees to the three sports franchises.
Goren blamed his own network for not negotiating better deals with the sports franchises. "We're not real great business people," he said. If Fox were smarter, it would "take a piece" of the Internet and mobile streaming dollars plus some of the revenues the NFL and leagues collect for operating their own channels.
However, Fox's current NFL rights arrangement does not allow it to simulcast games on the Internet. The same goes for the MLB and NASCAR events it carries.
Earlier this month, the NFL announced a deal with Verizon Wireless to stream Thursday and Sunday prime-time games live via a new application. Verizon customers with 3G phones and certain plans can receive the service free if downloaded by the end of the year.
Last season, the NFL debuted a RedZone channel on pay TV that provides cut-ins to games when a team nears the goal line. That feed is also coming to Verizon's NFL Mobile this fall. If viewers are tuning in, "then you can't be watching Fox," Goren said.