Get ready ESPN: News Corp will unveil its long-rumored national sports channel to advertisers in early March according to a Reuters story. The Fox Corp. unit is sending advertisers and media buyers invitations to its first sports upfront in NYC and that will include presentations for both its 22 regional sports channels and its new Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 national channels.
Daytime talker host Regis Philbin is reportedly in talks to host a daily afternoon show with other hosts on Fox Sports 1. He would most likely be at the upfront if the deal is signed in time.
Fox will convert its Speed Channel into Fox Sports 1 and its extreme sports channel Fuel into Fox Sports 2.
It’ll also offer subscribers the ability to get the channels on mobile devices, said the story.
The main offerings will include Major League baseball, college football, NASCAR races, professional soccer, and ultimate fighting. The two new channels are expected to begin broadcasting games in August and would expand its offerings in 2014.
Fox Sports signed a nine-year extension of its agreement with Major League Baseball that allows it to carry up to 40 games on a national cable channel. It carried Pacific-12 and other college football games last year on FX that can be transferred to the new channel.
The rollout is being led by David Hill, the chairman of Fox Sports. News Corp. has been assembling the required rights from pay-TV carriers and sports organizations.
Fox holds rights to air the LA 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.
News Corp. also 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. In addition, it shows games on broadcast TV (Fox) via Fox Sports.
News Corp. so far has clearance from some carriers, including DirecTV.
RBR-TVBR observation: With a national network, Fox would join NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network in taking on ESPN. To compete, Fox will need to make an attractive offer to even more sports organizations and teams. News Corp. last year secured rights to the Pac-12 Conference and Big-12 Conference games. The company in October won TV rights to soccer’s World Cup in 2018 and 2022. These are very good starting points in that effort.