Using the assets of its niche-targeted Speed channel, News Corp. has announced a major new national sports network, Fox Sports 1, which looks long-term
to compete with ESPN.
The news of the launch of the network had been expected for sometime. Fox Sports 1 starts August 17.
Chase Carey, chief operating officer of News Corp., said the network will launch as a fully distributed service with some 90 million subscribers. It will likely lose money initially, but look to raise subscriber rates.
Fox believes its already strong sports base on the Fox network will make for a good foundation -- already airing Major League Baseball, NASCAR, soccer, the UFC, college football and college basketball.
In addition, Fox Sports already owns a number of regional sports networks -- 22 in all -- and executives believe it has a built-in advantage with significant audiences watching those games.
Analysts speculate that the entry of Fox Sports 1 will contribute to continued multichannel TV distributors -- cable, satellite, and telco -- worries about costly and controversial sports license fees. ESPN already charges the top price, around $5.50 per subscriber per month. Currently, the Speed channel gets $0.22 a subscriber.
The always-aggressive News Corp. played down the obvious rivalry with the bit Disney sports cable networks.
“We are not trying to beat ESPN,” Carey said. “Sports is a big, huge arena. We’ve proven we can do some interesting and exciting things. We can enlarge the category and bring a new dimension to it. The key to success for us is to build an attractive business that resonates with consumers."
Fox Sports 1 will start off with 4,800 hours of programming, including a news franchise "Fox Sports Live" poised to be a kind of ESPN's "SportsCenter." Next year, the network will begin airing Major League Baseball regular season games and Pac-12 Football Conference Championship game will air on FS1.
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