News Corp has made it official. Its national cable sports channel will kick off this summer with “nearly 5,000 hours of live event, news ad original programming annually.” By taking over the Speed channel, it will reach about 90M homes which the company says makes it “the biggest sports cable network launch in history, and one of the largest network launches ever.” At the start the schedule will include college basketball and football, NASCAR, soccer and UFC. In 2014 it will add Major League Baseball with 26 regular season games on Saturdays, select League Championship Series and Division Series games, and a live game-in-progress look-in show. FS1 plans a morning newscast to begin in January. Regis Philbin will host Rush Hour (weeknights from 5-6:00 PM ET), which will include a panel of regulars and guests. It will be followed by Fox Football Daily (daily 6-7:00 PM ET), described as an “extension of Fox NFL Sunday.” The network will air Fox Football Daily with news, interviews and commentary about pro and collegiate football. It also will challenge ESPN at 11:00 PM ET with a nightly talk show. Sports events will include a “double box” commercial format matching ads with programming designed to keep viewers engaged. The company also will introduce Fox Sports GO, a digital platform that will offer news, stats and analysis — as well as more than 1,000 live games and events — on the Internet and to Apple and Android devices. The live games will be available to pay TV subscribers.
“Fans are ready for an alternative to the establishment, and our goal for FS1 is to provide the best in-game experience possible complemented by informative news, entertaining studio shows and provocative original programming,” says Fox Sports Media Group co-president Eric Shanks. The best soccer games will go to FS1 while other matches will run on Fox Soccer and other company outlets. As for the competition with ESPN, “our hope is that we can mount equally professional and equally well done” programming, says News Corp Senior Executive VP David Hill. “It’s going to take two or three years” to become a serious alternative to ESPN.