News Corp’s COO assured investors this morning that the introduction later today of the Fox Sports 1 cable network is a smart long term strategy, even though it will result in losses for the next few years. The company will convert its Speed channel into a national, general sports channel and has to make a “manageable investment” while it tries to “ramp up the rate” that cable and satellite companies pay for the existing service, Carey told the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet and Telecom conference. Pay TV distributors currently shell out about 22 cents per subscriber each month for Speed — and $5.54 for ESPN — research firm SNL Kagan estimates. In the end, Carey says the upgraded sports channel could become “a multibillion dollar franchise.” The service will be “a natural fit” since sports “has been a huge part of the growth of Fox for 15 years….It’s a place where we can bring expertise, synergies and for us is part of growing and adding a new dimension to our business.” Although sports rights are expensive, Fox can “navigate that” and capitalize on programming that’s “ever more valuable and more unique in a world that’s fragmented.” The “key” to the effort, he says, is to “not try to beat ESPN.” It will take advantage of rights it bought for baseball, college football, college basketball and World Cup Soccer that “didn’t reside anywhere in the Fox family.” And Carey says that it’s especially important for Fox Sports to create compelling shows around the games. He notes that the “most important franchise at ESPN is Sports Center.”
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