Fox Corp. Bullish On Sports Betting
With record political advertising in the rear-view mirror, Fox Corp. Executive Chairman-CEO Lachlan Murdoch is emphasizing two other growth areas to Wall Street analysts. He sees strong gains coming for sports betting — both as a business and as an advertising category — and from the Tubi streaming business.
Fox Corp. has an option to buy a stake in FanDuel and is already heavily promoting Fox Bet, which it operates with partner Flutter. Fox Bet Sportsbook is operating in a few states with actual wagering, but the Fox Bet Super 6 is a free to play app everywhere with prizes and tie-ins to the local stations.
“From an advertising point of view, our strongest category in the station group is entertainment, which is pacing up 10% year-on-year. Entertainment is made up of two things: one is streaming services and the second is sports betting,” Murdoch said in the company’s quarterly conference call this morning. The advertising includes actual wagering sites in states where sports betting is legal and fantasy sports games everywhere. While he didn’t have a break-out for that sub-category, Murdoch said it is a “top tier” advertising growth area.
“So we’re enjoying the growth of sports betting, sports wagering, on multiple fronts. One is advertising at the local station level. But we’re also participating in it with Fox Bet and our option in FanDuel,” Murdoch said.
“Tubi is an exciting growth engine for the company and a key strategic platform for not only our digital expansion, but also our broader reimagining of Fox’s broadcast model for the future. In fact, I believe Tubi is an investment in what we internally call the broadening of broadcast,” the CEO said of the ad-supported streaming service that Fox Corp. acquired a year ago. He sees the Fox Network and Tubi “combined seamlessly to create a modern network-inspired business.”
Murdoch says Tubi’s growth is continuing to exceed the top end of the company’s acquisition expectations. He sees Tubi quickly growing to $1 billion in annual ad revenues.
Total advertising revenue for Fox Corp. was up 14% to $2.28 billion in the fiscal second quarter ended Dec. 31. CFO Steve Tomsic said that was led by record political ad revenues at the TV station group and the inclusion of Tubi.
Television segment (Fox Network, stations and Tubi) revenues were up 13% in the quarter to $2.56 billion. Advertising gained 10% to $1.84 billion. Affiliate fees grew 23% to $590 million, including increases in both retrans paid to the O&O stations and network fees paid by affiliate stations.
Records are made to be broken, so Lachlan Murdoch isn’t expecting the all-time highs for political ad spending to stand as records for long. With the House and Senate so narrowly divided, he expects new record levels of spending for the non-presidential federal election in two years and then for the presidential cycle four years out.
The current quarter, of course, is facing difficult comps, since Fox had the Super Bowl last year. But if you strip that out, Murdoch says the quarter is pacing down in the mid-single digits against the pre-pandemic period a year ago. Going forward, the comps become better as the impact of COVID-19 comes into play.
For the current quarter, Murdoch provided some color on advertising categories. “Entertainment leads the categories. Home and professional services are both strong. I should just mention on the flip-side, automotive, which is obviously a very large category for us, is still down. But this is primarily driven — excuse the pun — by domestic manufacturers. In fact, foreign auto spending is roughly flat,” Murdoch told the analysts.