The Fox Sports Media Group has an upfront presentation scheduled for this afternoon and is expected to use that platform to announce the launch of its first national cable sports network, Fox Sports 1. The all-sports network will go live in August, timed to the start of college football season and David Hill, the former head of the Fox Sports Media Group, has been brought in to oversee the creation and launch. Plans for the channel have been brewing for some time – News Corp. COO Chase Carey last month called it the “world’s worst kept secret” – but up to now details were scant including what sports the network would carry. According to The New York Times, Fox Sports 1 will have Nascar, Major League Baseball, college basketball and football, soccer (including the 2018 and 2022 World Cups) and UFC fights. Also, an in-studio show will be hosted by Regis Philbin who last week hinted at the prospect.
Fox, which has been converting its Speed channel into Fox Sports 1, is muscling into a crowded sports TV arena that’s largely dominated by ESPN and its 98.5M subscribers. NBC and CBS also have their own sports channels as do MLB, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, the Big Ten and Pacific-12 conferences. Fox also has 22 regional sports networks upon which Fox Sports 1 can draw. Late last year News Corp. entered the New York sports market by acquiring a 49% stake in the Yankees’ YES Network. RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank told The Times that Fox Sports 1 would be a success “from Day 1” and could eventually bid against ESPN for NBA rights and cable packages of NFL games. Speed currently has 81M subscribers and there are plans to replace the Fuel channel with companion service, Fox Sports 2. It’s believed Fox Sports 1 will charge cable, satellite and telephone companies 75 cents to $1 a subscriber. ESPN president John Skipper told The Times, “We view Fox as a formidable competitor. They’ve got the resources of News Corp., and the willingness that Fox has shown in the past to take big bets and to create a difference. We like our hand. We just have to play it well.” News Corp. added 1.2% yesterday in N.Y.