Friday, March 08, 2013

Fox's Big Bet!

Certainly one of this year’s worst kept secrets is finally… no longer a secret! This week at the Fox upfront for media buyers in midtown NYC, executives at News Corporation formally unveiled the new concept and their plans to convert Speed Channel this coming August to a new national sports network called Fox Sports 1.

According to the release, Fox Sports 1 (FS 1) will be available in 90 million cable and satellite TV homes when it debuts on Aug. 17, making it the biggest sports network launch in U.S. history, Fox Sports Media Group boasted.  The bulk of FS 1's 90 million subscriber count will come from the distribution Fox has already achieved for Speed, which is available in about 87 million homes. Obviously FS 1 will challenge ESPN's 800 pound gorilla of sports  however says Billy Wanger, the head of programming for Fox Sports, “quite frankly, ESPN is a machine, we are coming in trying to take on the establishment; it is no different than what happened with Fox News, or Fox Broadcasting back in the 80s. We are going to have to scratch and claw our way all the way to the top.”

The company has been preparing for this for some time. In recent months News Corp. has increased its investment in sports programming like it’s November deal with the New York Yankees which may allow it to take an 80 percent ownership stake in YES Network within three years.  Major League Baseball games (including playoff games beginning in 2014) will be available on the channel, as will NASCAR races, UFC fights, college football and basketball and UEFA and World Cup soccer.

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