Fox is expected to announce plans for a national sports cable channel through the rebranding of its motor-sports network Speed, available in 78 million homes. The new venture, “Fox Sports 1,” is likely to launch in 2013, but possibly as soon as the end of 2012. The effort is being led by David Hill, the chairman of Fox Sports, according to a Bloomberg story. It will be aimed directly at Disney’s ESPN.
News Corp. is assembling the required rights from pay-TV carriers and sports organizations, said the people, who requested anonymity because talks are private. While a final decision to move forward hasn’t been made, the company is considering converting its Fuel action-sports network to the new channel, the story said.
With a national network, Fox would join NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network in taking on ESPN. News Corp. last year secured rights to the Pac-12 Conference and Big-12 Conference games and owns 20 regional sports nets. The company in October won TV rights to soccer’s World Cup in 2018 and 2022.
Fox holds rights to broadcast Los Angeles Dodgers games through next year, and exclusive negotiating rights to renew through late this year.
ESPN, however, is well-positioned to withstand competition because of its rights for Monday Night Football and national baseball and basketball games.
Fuel, the 24-hour action-sports network that carries mixed- martial arts fights, is available in 36 million U.S. homes, according to Fox.
In addition to Fox Sports Net regional channels, Fuel, and Speed, News Corp. owns the Fox Soccer Channel, the Big Ten Network, a partnership with the college sports conference, and Fox College Sports, consisting of Pacific, Central and Atlantic regional networks. News Corp. also shows games on broadcast television through Fox Sports.
To compete with ESPN and NBC Sports, Fox will need to make an attractive offer to sports organizations and teams, said Neal Pilson, president of Pilson Communications and former head of CBS Sports, told Bloomberg. “The way you do that is you give a new sports property exposure on the Fox broadcast network and then you put other games on the new channel. You leverage the broadcast channel to get product on the cable channel.”
News Corp. has clearance from some carriers, including DirecTV.
RBR-TVBR observation: What will likely happen to make Fox Sports 1 a hit is two things: 1) News Corp. will pick the best of the best from its other sports nets and air them on the new network—either permanently or when it’s a major event. 2) The company will competitively court other sports teams and/or events, offering high-dollar offers and the promise of strong cross-promotion to help these teams make more revenue than they are now.