Another New Fox Cable Network Looks For A Different State Of Mind -- Or For Humility
Another new cable network with more attitude? Any more TV posturing and we are sure to hear fewer words, perhaps just grunts.
News Corp's Fox Sports 1 wants to bring this to the party in its attempt to unseat Walt Disney's ESPN with a new national sports cable network that will start this August.
One doesn't want to doubt News Corp., but what will be the marketing message here? “Fox Sports 1: Sports for the even stronger-minded man!”?
Already you have scores of mid-size and small sports cable networks, including the likes of NBC Sports Network, Universal Sports, a whole suite of ESPN channels, regional channels, and other broadcast networks who have sports.
Two things Fox Sports 1 has going for it: 90 million subscribers (taken from News Corp's Speed channel) and the Fox Sports brand name. That's a lure to consumers as well as to dvertisers seeking more live, less time-shifted programming and hard-to-get male viewers.
Sports programming on the Fox network has the likes of NFL, Major League Baseball and NASCAR. But sports leagues aren't dumb. Most of these Fox deals are not constructed to allow games, races, and content to be run on a cable network.
More TV competition and, in theory, higher prices means good news for sports leagues. But won't Fox be looking for a pricing break? This is not the 1990s when Fox Sports surprised everyone by spending whatever it took to get the NFL and then Major League Baseball. This is a much harder TV environment.
Right now ESPN gets around $5.50 per subscriber per month; Speed channel is at $0.22. Speed is a niche sports network to be sure, and you could understand that cable operators, satellite providers and telcos, might preferring selling sports programming with broader appeal to local advertisers.
But in the end no one wants to pay any more for anything -- lest networks be moved to eyebrow-raising extra-priced sport tiers. Given the state of worry among cable operators, satellite services, and telcos in regards to soaring costs to carry sports networks, one wonders what will be the answer when Fox comes a calling and looking for more money -- say $1 or maybe $1.50 a sub.
News Corp. always looks to make big TV programming network splashes. But not everything works when News Corp. goes after big fish.
Wasn't Fox Business Channel going to challenge CNBC when it started in 2007? How did that battle go? I'll tell you: By 2012, five years later, CNBC was averaging 158,000 daytime viewers and Fox Business 55,000. In prime time, CNBC had 220,000 viewers and Fox Business 62,000.
Yes, Fox Business had much more ground to cover -- it is currently in 60 million homes. And, of course, it doesn’t have the lure of broader sports programming. But the lesson to be learned here is that network content about money -- or network money about content -- isn't always an easy story to tell... or sell.