A year after announcing that it was going to start an "action sports" network, Fox last week gave it a name and a debut date: Fox Cable Networks' new Fuel debuts July 1 as the first cable network dedicated to extreme sports.
General Manager David Sternberg says the network "is placing a big bet on a very strong future trend in sports participation and sports viewing."
Fuel will start off with about 2 million digital subscribers on DirecTV, Time Warner Cable and Cable One.
The channel will tempt young male viewers 12-24 with extreme sports like snowboarding and wakeboarding, which are only sporadically offered on TV. Because of the nature of extreme sports, says Programming Vice President C.J. Olivares, much of the content will be pretaped. "There is tradition in these sports that they are shot for air later."
Fuel will have some live competitions. Network executives are negotiating with IMG, for example, to license rights to the Association of Surfing Professionals. Fuel may share some programming with Fox Sports, like Fox's new 54321
action-sports highlight show. There are also initiatives to partner with Fox Sports regional nets, Fox Sports World and Fox Sports en Español.
Olivares said Fuel may also look to license second windows to other networks' programming, like NBC's Gravity Games.
Fuel will be ad-supported, but it's exploring ways to reduce traditional commercial breaks. Two Olivares ideas: fewer but longer spots or event sponsorship.
As for the name, Olivares explains that Fuel personifies "the power, the passion, and the depth of these sports and the influence they play in youth culture."