And the battle is further enjoined.
The Fox Sports Media Group revealed the worst kept media-related secret in history when announcing that Fox Sports 1 will launch this summer in approximately 90 million U.S. homes on Aug. 17.
“Our ‘secret,’ admittedly a very poorly kept one, is now revealed,” said Eric Shanks, co-president and co-COO of FSMG. “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.”
It is the second time that Fox will make such an attempt after a previous attempt, though not as comprehensive as this one, back in the 1990s. This time they very well may succeed. Why?
Call it typical, but there is finally some backlash against ESPN, the big bad granddaddy of sports networks owned by the Walt Disney Co. that seemingly wants to take over the sports world. In recent months, the group of channels have endured a series of criticisms aimed at the way in which they handle the news aspect of their business. That aside, they are still No. 1.
And despite the imbroglio that still surrounds Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, there is something to be said for having a different voice and fresh perspective in the cable realm. Fox is the last of the Big Four networks to enter this realm with NBC and CBS having launched their sports cable networks more than a year ago.
If that seems like a lot of sports networks fighting for programming, think again. Live programming in general and sports in general offer a premium to advertisers for a simple reason. They offer a captive audience whom potential sponsors know are viewing an event.
More people consume and care about sports than ever before, so to satisfy that voracious demand FSMG deems the time is now to launch FS1, according to a news release. When FOX Sports launched in 1994, late Sunday afternoon NFL on FOX games ranked as the 26th highest-rated program on television. Today, FOX’s national doubleheader games rank No. 1 for three years running.
The net result is those viewers are more valuable and thus drive up the cost of advertising rates. That’s merely my conjecture, but it stands to reason. Additionally, programming for a national FS1 won’t be difficult to come by because of the myriad of contracts with assorted leagues and conferences that Fox already does business. And let’s not forget that fact that they own 49 percent of the Big Ten Network as well.
Here’s a list of programming that FS1 will have available to it from day one, according to a corporate news release:
- COLLEGE BASKETBALL – Dozens of exclusive prime time games on Monday and Thursday nights, plus Saturday and Sunday coverage of the Big 12, Pac-12 and Conference USA.
- COLLEGE FOOTBALL – Led by Notre Dame at Stanford, the Big Ten Championship Game and Pac-12 Championship Game (2014) on FOX, dozens of exclusive, live games from the Pac-12, Big 12 and Conference USA on Thursday nights and Saturdays; triple- and quadruple-headers on Saturdays; Saturday pre- and postgame coverage.
- MLB – Beginning in 2014, select League Championship Series and Division Series games; regular-season games over 26 Saturdays; live game-in-progress look-in show.
- NASCAR – Select NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races as soon as 2015; NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races; NASCAR Sprint All-Star race; all Speedweeks events leading up to the Daytona 500 including: Daytona 500 Qualifying, Sprint Unlimited at Daytona (2014, 2017-22) and the Budweiser Duel, now in prime time; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NCWTS Practice and Qualifying sessions; NASCAR RaceDay, providing pre- and post-race coverage; NASCAR Victory Lane, a weekly wrap-up show; and Race Hub, a daily mid-day studio show with the latest from drivers, owners and garages.
- SOCCER – Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday afternoon coverage of the world’s most prolific club soccer competitions, the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, and CONCACAF Champions League featuring many of the world’s greatest and most successful clubs; the world’s oldest soccer competition, the FA Cup; CONCACAF Gold Cup; CONCACAF Qualifiers, FIFA Women’s World Cup coverage in 2015 and 2019; FIFA Men’s World Cup coverage in 2018 and 2022; delayed matches in prime time; weekly magazine and highlights shows.
- UFC – Featured on Wednesday nights; live FIGHT NIGHTS through 2014, the first is scheduled for launch night, Saturday, Aug. 17; FOX event preliminary cards; UFC Tonight, the weekly authority for UFC news and information; 14 Saturday pay-per-view preliminary cards; hundreds of hours of library programs and events.
It’s impressive and much like ESPN, NBC and CBS they are developing ancillary studio programming to complement assorted sports that they will cover along with the over-the-air Fox Network. Fox Football Daily will highlight several original programs.
Will it work? When you consider what Fox has been able to achieve in cable news, making Fox News a powerhouse, I wouldn’t bet against it. Whether it’s a good thing remains to be seen.