Question: Southern California sports fans are often portrayed as effete, and not nearly as committed as those in say, New York or Philadelphia. What's your take on fans here?
Answer: There are so many more people here that it's just a wider variety of fans in general; there's not one particular type. People here do turn out to watch a lot of sports there are 7 million tickets sold each year to baseball games and that's truly incredible. There are so many other things to do here, though, that people are often out pursuing their own activities rather than being the types to stay inside and watch things on TV. But there are also so many people from other parts of the country that have relocated here those are the hockey fans, which has a solid following out here. The teams in Los Angeles have a rich history and have been successful, so they are easy to adopt.
Q: Anything unique?
A: Something that goes relatively unheralded is the amazing following of the alumni of UCLA and USC. The graduates are so dedicated to those teams and they have some of the best teams in the country. Look at the Rose Bowl or Coliseum or Pauley Pavilion. They're always filled up and it's really amazing the longtime, cultural dedication of those alumni. The blending of the collegiate marketplace and the professional marketplace is something other cities don't have.
Q: How about you, West Coast or East Coast fan?
A: I would say I'm a combination. I have my lifelong New York teams that I have followed and been part of, but also have come to appreciate the local teams like the Angels, Dodgers and Clippers from a business side and rooting standpoint, too.
Q: Sports aside, how has it been shifting from the East Coast to out here?
A: There's some thing very civilized about getting into your car and driving to work. It's something I had never done until I moved to Southern California seven years ago. I was always on the train, the subway or walking or taking cabs. I never really had a garage where I started my day, went in and got in my car, flipped the switch, the door opened and I drove away. It's really nice to have your own space and some time. It allows for a little more personal time and the separation of some things from your day you know, whatever happened at work during the day can kind of fade away on your ride.
Q: In general, you prefer it?
A: I think people who are from the Northeast like I am don't realize what the climate does to you until you are out here and it's nice out most of the time. There it's gray, followed by more gray and rain and cold before you get to the nice days. Here, it's nice more often than not, and I think I counted 76 days in a row before it rained when I first got here. That's nice, and the lifestyle is a little more relaxed.
Q: Do you personally attend a lot of sporting events?
A: I do, but most of the events I attend are for business purposes. When you travel so much and go to so many events for business, I think you really like to do other things in your spare time, like spend time with my family.
Q: What was your biggest career challenge?
A: That would be leaving Turner Broadcasting, finding what I really wanted to do and more importantly, how I wanted to do it. I don't think I realized sports would play into it heavily at that point. I was just trying to figure out what was going to give me the best opportunity and also allow me to utilize my skill sets in a way that I wanted to.
Q: Does your sports background, including your having been a point guard on the team at St. Joseph's, come in handy in your business dealings now?
A: Not particularly. Having a knowledge base in sports is a great foundation for the field but it doesn't necessarily give me the chance to be more successful. That comes from understanding business of sports and not the game of sports. In the sports business world, decisions made are not always based in logic or reason; it's far more emotional. It's based on the desire to be successful from both a business standpoint but also a competition standpoint.
Q: The general perception of News Corp.'s run as owners of the L.A. Dodgers is negative, although you see it as a positive.
A: Any lack of success on Dodgers side was on field and in the media, and all corporate owners have struggled with that. By 2004, News Corp. didn't have a vested interest in staying in the team ownership business anymore; we had gotten all the value we could have out of owning the team and sold it at the right time. Out of the sale we also got a long-term rights deal to go along with that.
Q: What about during the ownership run?
A: News Corp purchased the Dodgers at a point in time when we were looking at a number of opportunities in the region and there was a competitive threat in regional sports business at the time. The Dodgers combined with (cable channels) Fox Sports West and West2 now Prime Ticket utilized the Dodgers very successfully, particularly for the launch of West 2.
Q: Obviously, though, things weren't perfect. The Dodgers even cut a deal for on-demand broadcasts with Time Warner, right?
A: I don't think the Dodgers on-demand channel soured our relationship. I think it pointed to the need for us to be closer to the team and provide more value for them. Part of the challenge of being in L.A. is that there are so many more layers to building relationships here. We weren't paying enough attention to what the Dodgers were trying to accomplish and hopefully we've amended that now and hopefully we're closer to the team than we ever have been.
Q: You have a unique relationship with the cable company Comcast, which has become your primary rival on the regional sports front, right?
A: Comcast is a big partner of ours. We are in business with them and they are one of our largest distributors. At the same time, there are markets where they are a big regional sports provider and there is competition there. In a market like Chicago, when they time it well then come in and do it right, you can see that regional sports has been a success for them. There are areas with multiple regional sports networks and they have competition from others, too, and there's room for more than one player.
Q: Why did FSN lose the broadcast rights to the Portland Trailblazers, and what do you think of the Comcast deal now in place there?
A: It's a very lucrative deal for the Trailblazers, one we walked away from because we didn't think it was a marketplace deal or one we could pass on to consumers and distributors. It's indicative of the conflicted position Comcast is in; they are in a position of not being comfortable with how high rights fees have escalated, but in many cases they are the main reason why fees have escalated.
Q: Fox is leading the way among the major media players in terms of mixed martial arts. How confident are you about that sport's future?
A: If you talk to most young men 15 and up, they can tell you more about mixed martial arts than they can about boxing, or in some cases, the Clippers or the Dodgers. Boxing for the most part has run its course and continues to struggle even for the big fights like (Floyd) Mayweather and (Oscar) De La Hoya. Our investment and involvement has increased and things have taken off as we've watched MMA grow, which it's doing rapidly. There's always a danger of having any sport run its course, whether it's boxing, wrestling, hockey, whatever, but MMA is really just in its toddler stage. There's a lot of opportunity for content and expansion. I think you'll see mixed martial arts grow even more over the next five years or so.
Q: Who is your favorite figure in sports right now?
A: (Phoenix Suns NBA star) Steve Nash, because nobody sets a better example of how the game should be played and how court behavior should be handled than he does. Plus, he's the father of twins, so I've gotta love that.
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