Sunday, May 26, 2013
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — For anyone who thinks TV is already saturated with sports of every stripe, stay tuned.
Here comes Fox with an in-your-face challenge to ESPN – a 24-hour sports cable network called Fox Sports 1, set to launch Aug. 17.
"ESPN, quite frankly, is a machine," Fox Sports executive vice president Bill Wanger said Tuesday in announcing the venture. "They have very consistent ratings, obviously huge revenue. We're coming in trying to take on the establishment. It's no different than Fox News or Fox Broadcasting back in the '80s. We're going to have to scratch and claw our way all the way to the top."
To do that, Fox executives are confident they have enough live events, with rights to college basketball and football, NASCAR, soccer and UFC fights. In its first year, the new network will broadcast nearly 5,000 hours of competition and news.
Fox owns rights to many Big 12, Pac-12 and Conference USA basketball and football games. Its soccer deals include UEFA Champions League, and the men's and women's World Cups from 2015-22.
Starting in 2014, FS1 will start broadcasting Major League Baseball games, including part of the postseason. It will show some NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races as early as 2015, with other NASCAR events on the air from the start.
However, unlike ESPN's lineup, there's no NBA, no SEC football, no ACC basketball and, the biggest attraction of all, no NFL games. On that last point, Wanger was quick to add: "Yet."
Still to be determined is whether the NFL sells some Thursday night games separately from its NFL Network package. If it does, everyone will try to buy a piece of the action.
That will be the case for any rights deals that come along; there aren't many, with long-term pacts now the norm. NBC and CBS already have their own cable sports networks, and Turner is also a factor.
FS1 will be converted from Speed TV, a motorsports network, and will be available in 90 million homes, compared with almost 99 million for ESPN and ESPN2.
Regis Philbin, 81, will host a weekday sports talk show for the new network.