There are no what if questions. The NFL and Madden changed the fortunes of both Murdoch and Lawrence Tisch's CBS. In 1993, CBS completed the TV hat trick; it won daytime, prime time and late night ratings. David Letterman had just moved over to the network and things were looking good. But Tisch's CBS did not invest in cable TV, lost the NFL and Madden, football's top star both on and off the field, lost affiliates and would start a downward spiral. Murdoch's FOX Sports added the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball soon after the NFL deal. Eventually Murdoch would gain NASCAR and the Bowl Championship Series. On the cable TV side, Murdoch sort of has a national sports network, but that is not where Murdoch really has a sports foothold. Murdoch's regional sports cable networks are still strong despite being challenged by upstarts in the past few years. FOX either owns or has agreements with numerous cable regional sports networks, and there are college sports networks as well. There is also a partnership with The Big Ten Network.
Madden's signing with FOX after CBS lost the NFL rights in 1993 cannot be dismissed.
John Madden was a major part of the FOX promotion, so much so that at an NFL owners meeting at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, John ended up by the master of ceremonies for the night's owners’ party after Murdoch departed. Madden left FOX after the February 2002 Super Bowl and joined ABC Monday Night Football's crew. John was no longer that valuable to Murdoch. Rupert built a viable network; he had built a strong regional sports cable network; he had his news channel and was finally an American citizen because non-American citizens could not own TV networks. But News Corp remained an Australian company and Murdoch decided to move the company to the United States.
After the relocation of the company headquarters, President Bill Clinton's Federal Communication Commission in 1995 allowed Murdoch to run FOX because it was "in the best interest of the public."
Clinton's FCC badly misjudged what was in the best interest of the public by allowing Murdoch to encamp in the United States.
Now that Murdoch has been censured by an English Parliament committee for wrong doing, it will be interesting to see if any sports owners run away from him or News Corp. The answer is probably not. News Corp has been enhanced by sports dealings in the United States and the owners look at their wallets before worrying about public perception. Besides watch a FOX football telecast, the camera seems always to be trained on an owner who seemingly lauds over the game like a modern day Caesar at a modern day Roman Coliseum.
For now, Murdoch may be unfit in the UK, but in the United States he continues his political and sports dominance unfettered. Over time that may change, but for now Rupert Murdoch still remains a significant political and sports force in the US.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition" is available at bickley.com and Amazon and featured on Google books.