Upfronts 2013: Fox to Launch Cable Sports Network Aug. 17
Channel to be available in over 90 million homes
By Tim Baysinger -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/5/2013 1:58:37 PMComplete Coverage: Upfronts 2013
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New York -- After more than a year's worth of rumors and speculation, Fox on Tuesday finally announced its plans to launch a 24-hour cable sports network.
Fox Sports 1, which will be rebranded from racing channel Speed beginning Aug. 17, will boast 4,800 hours of live programming including exclusive event coverage, news and original shows, making up 55% of the schedule. The new network will be available in over 90 million homes, making this the biggest sports network launch ever.
"Our 'secret,' admittedly a very poorly kept one, is now revealed," said Eric Shanks, Fox Sports Media Group copresident and COO. "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."
The launch efforts will be led in part by David Hill, the former head of the Fox Sports Media Group, who some 20 years ago spearheaded the debut of Fox Sports, seeded by News Corp.'s acquisition of the National Football Conference rights that had been held by CBS.
Last July, Hill, in a restructuring, was named senior executive VP of News Corp. to oversee domestic and international "programming and digital products," with Shanks and fellow FSMG copresident and COO Randy Freer reporting to Peter Rice, the chairman of Fox Networks Group.
After countless stories leading up to Tuesday, Fox didn't announce a deal with the Catholic 7, the seven breakaway Big East schools that will tip off their own basketball-centric league. They are expected to retain the conference's old moniker and add Butler, Xavier and Creighton. Freer said Fox hopes "to wrap something up in the not-too distant future."
Fox's push is a gambit to produce more affiliate and advertising revenue by leveraging recently secured game and match rights. The debut of the service comes as ESPN's empire extends across myriad sports and platforms and as NBC and CBS try to build the business and profile of their national cable services, NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network. The already crowded sports space -- which is again at the center of cries about escalating programming costs -- also includes league-owned, national services from the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL, not to mention regional sports networks covering pro and college teams across the U.S.
At the outset, Fox Sports 1 will carry college basketball from the Big 12, Pac-12 and Conference USA and college football from those three conferences, as well as the Big Ten conference championship game. Soccer programming will include UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and the CONCACAF Champions League. The other live sports to air at launch will be the UFC, which has a fight scheduled for the Aug. 17 launch date.
In 2014, Fox Sports 1 will begin airing Major League Baseball regular season games, some playoff games and a live game-in-progress look-in show. Also in 2014, the Pac-12 Football Conference Championship game will air on FS1. NASCAR begins airing Sprint Cup Series races beginning in 2015. FS1 will also begin airing the Women's World Cup in 2015 and the Men's version in 2018.
In addition to live-sports programming, FS1 will have major news franchise Fox Sports Live, that will include regularly-scheduled programming, hourly updates and a ticker that will run at the bottom of the screen, much like ESPN has. The daily Fox Sports Live program will air at 11 p.m., going head-to-head against the Los Angeles-produced version of ESPN's SportsCenter. A morning newscast will launch in January 2014 during the network's coverage of Super Bowl XLVIII.
Along with live events and news coverage, FS1 will also have Rush Hour, which will be hosted by former Live! cohost Regis Philbin. The format will be styled after The View with Philbin serving as the host of a panel that will rotate between sports professionals, celebrity guest and fans. The one-hour Rush Hour will air at 5 p.m. and be followed by Fox Football Daily, which will be an extension of Fox's Fox NFL Sunday, the network's Sunday pregame show. Fox Football Daily will have the same talent at Fox NFL Sunday, including Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jay Glazer, as well as Erin Andrews and Gus Johnson. Both are expected to debut at launch in August.
The Fox documentary franchise BEING will air on FS1 with the first subject to be Mike Tyson.
The "double box" commercial format, which splits the screen during commercial breaks to keep one camera remaining on the field, will be the norm for FS1.
Also launching with the linear network is Fox Sports GO, a TV Everywhere offering that will be available on iPhone, iPad and Android devices. Fox Sports GO will feature over 1,000 live games and events from Fox, FS1 and Fox Sports' 22 regional sports networks. The offering will also include scores, highlights, news, stats and analysis.
"As a company we haven't been afraid to innovate and take well-calculated risks," added Freer. "We've devoted significant resources over the last few years to acquire and/or extend multiplatform rights with a wide variety of leagues and governing bodies well into the next decade, enough to give us a rich schedule right out of the box."
Mike Reynolds contributed to this story.
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