A Media Giant Looks to Profit Off a Constant Trend

It's often said that investors should follow the money. This usually pertains to billionaire investors with stellar track records making new investments in certain companies. In this case, it refers to following the company's own investments.

21st Century Fox's (NASDAQ: FOXA  ) large appetite for growth should pique your interest. 21st Century Fox is setting itself up for the long haul, which is what Foolish investors like to see. The best part is that unlike many other companies striving for aggressive growth, 21st Century Fox is keeping its debt load manageable.

Strategic Approach
Demand for most programming ebbs and flows, subject to changing viewer interests. However, demand for sports never fades. You can make several cases as to why this is the case. Perhaps it's because sports offers viewers a temporary escape from their stressful lives. Maybe it's because sports are unscripted and unpredictable. Or it could simply be due to rooting for one's home team or fantasy team. Whatever the case may be, sports are always in high demand. 21st Century Fox recognizes this and plans to capitalize on it.

Building a Team
21st Century Fox made two strategic acquisitions in November 2012, including a 51% stake in Eredivisie Media & Marketing for $351 million, which holds media and sponsorship rights to the Dutch Premier League. The other acquisition in this eventful month was the remaining 50% stake in ESPN Star Sports in Asia for $220 million, which now goes by the name of Fox Sports Asia.  

In the third quarter of fiscal-year 2013, 21st Century Fox increased its Sky Deutschland ownership to 55% for $550 million. More commonly known as Sky, this satellite TV platform in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland offers many different types of programs, but football (as in soccer) is a big draw.

Back on home turf, 21st Century Fox acquired a 49% stake in YES Network (Yankees baseball) in December 2012 for $584 million. 21st Century Fox will also have the option of upping its ownership to 80% in December 2015. While the Yankees might be having a tough go of it at the moment, its fans aren't going anywhere. The most loved and hated baseball team on the planet will always find ways to attract fans and viewers thanks to its deep pockets and high-spending ways. Though not as newsworthy, 21st Century Fox acquired Cleveland-based SportsTime Ohio for $285 million in December 2012.

These investments are expensive, but 21st Century Fox also sold its 49% stake in NDS Group to Cisco back in July 2012, which freed up $1.9 billion. 

21st Century Fox also has long-term agreements with the NFL, MLB, college football conferences, UFC, and NASCAR. Additionally, it recently launched Fox Sports 1.

 

Learning from peers

Keep in mind that Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) owns ESPN, which has become the most recognizable name in sports television. Though Disney is highly diversified with filmed entertainment, theme parks, and more, the majority of its revenue comes from its media networks, and ESPN has become so strong that Disney is now demanding higher fees for it. Dish Network was one of the recent victims of this trend, as it's now forced to pass those fees on to its customers. However, this is a positive for Disney and its investors. As you might have noticed, Disney always finds ways to win.

Time Warner recently went through a similar experience with CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS  ) . CBS Corp. offers several popular programs, including NCIS Under the Dome, and 60 Minutes, but the NFL was the key to getting a deal done. With 3 million Time Warner customers across eight markets not having access to CBS and potentially the NFL, Time Warner had no choice to give in to the demands of CBS. 

Simply put, 21st Century Fox desires to be in such a powerful position. If demand for sports is permanently high internationally, then it makes sense for 21st Century Fox to increase its presence in that arena. 

The Bottom Line
21st Century Fox is a highly diversified company that's looking to increase its presence in sports broadcasting. Sports aren't like stylish apparel where consumers consistently change their tastes. Sports are always in high demand. That being the case, 21st Century Fox appears to be devising a strategic game plan that should lead to positive long-term results. 

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