After months of reports, speculation, and intrigue Fox finally had the coming out party for their new 24 hour cable sports network, Fox Sports 1, earlier today in New York City. As has been reported for months, FS1 will replace Speed Channel as Fox looks to build a network that can challenge the generation-long dominance of ESPN. Fox Sports President Eric Shanks laid down the gauntlet in today's announcement:
“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.”
After the slow start of NBC Sports Network, the mantle has now turned to Fox to provide an alternative in the marketplace. And from today's news, it's clear Fox is starting at a much stronger position than NBC Sports Network, especially in terms of live sports rights. Here's all you need to know about Fox Sports 1...
Launch Date: Saturday, August 17th, 2013. The launch day will have a litany of live sports including a NASCAR truck series race (the spirit of Speed will live on!) and culminating in FS1's first UFC card.
Distribution: 90 million homes. Fox claims it's one of the largest channel launches in television history. To put that in perspective, ESPN and ESPN2 are in about 100 million homes, while NBCSN is in 80 million and CBS Sports Network roughly 50 million. The prominence, longevity, and distribution of Speed Channel is an immense built in advantage for Fox that NBC didn't have with Versus.
UFC: Mixed martial arts will be a cornerstone of Fox Sports 1 with Wednesday nights labeled "Fight Nights" and 12 of them packed through the end of the year from launch.
Fox Sports One will air 12 UFC "Fight Nights" on Wednesdays from Aug 17 through end of year. Bouts will air from 8PM-11PM.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) March 5, 2013
Fox has to be encouraged with their UFC on Fuel numbers which just set a record high in viewership and you know Dana White will love the increased exposure. As long as the cable broadcasts deliver decent cards, FS1 should continue to see positive numbers. Between the FS1 broadcasts, Fox network, and pay per view, UFC may be the biggest winner in partnering with Fox.
College Football & Basketball: While Fox didn't confirm it at launch, the New Big East is on its way to provide the network with a solid stable of basketball coverage along with Pac 12 and Big 12 games. Expect to see games on Monday and Thursday nights as well as the weekends. As far as football goes, you should see any FX games move to FS1. Perhaps the most surprising news in this department is FS1 launching a weekly Thursday night college football game that will compete directly with ESPN and NFL Network in the fall.
NASCAR: Losing Speed has to be a blow to auto racing fans, but stock car racing will still have a large presence on FS1. The network will televisie practice sessions, qualifying, Speedweeks at Daytona, the All-Star Race from Charlotte, pre and post race coverage of Sprint Cup races, and a daily NASCAR studio show - Race Hub. And, some Sprint Cup races will appear in 2015. With all of those hours of coverage, NASCAR will be an FS1 mainstay.
Soccer: Speed will bite the dust, and as previously reported it looks like Fox Soccer will as well. FS1 will air games Tuesday-Thursdays mainly from Europe and CONCACAF. Interestingly, the Fox release also cites weekly magazine and studio shows and primetime replays of matches. FS1 will televise World Cup games once the Fox contract kicks in after 2014, too. I'd expect the most attractive Fox Soccer properties to get real estate on FS1, but the rest of the inventory should be relegated to Fox Sports 2 when it launches.
MLB: In 2014, regular season and playoff baseball will come to FS1 with some Division Series AND LCS games. That is huge for FS1. Prime content like playoff baseball will allow Fox to drive up subscription fees where they hope to reach the $1 mark, more than triple the 31 cents Speed currently charges. That would at least put it in the ballpark of large cable nets like TNT and Fox News. To truly be competitive for the long haul, FS1 will need to get as much capital here as they can - that money from distributors (at over $5 a hit, exponentially more than any other network charges) is the secret to ESPN's empire.
Fox Sports Live: Is Fox directly taking on SportsCenter? You bet. A nightly 11 PM newscast entitled Fox Sports Live will have a go at Bristol's flagship program:
Fox Sports 1 will have a nightly highlights show “Fox Sports Live” airing at 11 pm ET. A morning edition starts in January.— Fang's Bites (@fangsbites) March 5, 2013
In addition, Fox Sports Live updates will appear throughout the day on FS1 and a morning news program will be launched in January 2014. The daytime SportsCenter episodes have fallen off a cliff, but the 11 PM ET episode and west coast editions remain high quality. NBCSN shelved their flagship news show (NBC Sports Talk), so Fox will need to come strong from the outset and provide a true and serious alternative. If Fox Sports Live recycles the same topics ESPN does, it's a non-starter. One of NBCSN's best shows is the morning program "The Lights" because it's completely counter-culture to ESPN. All highlights and no annoying debate and fluff. FS1 must look to provide something different in the news department as well. No anchors have been named yet, but I'm already campaigning for the return of Van Earl Wright.
Regis: If there's one element of the FS1 unveiling that loses me, this is it. Regis Philbin will host a daily sports panel show entitled "Rush Hour" from 5-6 ET. In no timeline does this have any chance of working, not even the darkest timeline. Reg turns 82 two weeks after FS1 launches and has no connection with sports. It's just a bizarre idea all around.
Fox Football Daily: On the other end of the spectrum, it's wise for Fox to take advantage of the success and popularity of Fox NFL Sunday by bringing the morning crew to FS1 Monday-Friday. The 6-7 ET timeslot goes against SportsCenter, but the NFL is year round and I really think this show featuring Fox's NFL personalities like Jay Glazer, Howie Long, and Terry Bradshaw will find an audience.
Documentaries: Fox Soccer aired Being: Liverpool last year, taking viewers inside one of the world's most famous soccer clubs. That brand and documentary series will continue with Mike Tyson being the first FS1 subject in the fall.
Advertising: In what could be an under-the-radar, but revolutionary move, Fox's Double Box advertising will be a mainstay of FS1. If you don't have to leave games on FS1 during commercials, it keeps viewers on the network and gives sports fans an immediate way to distinguish it from ESPN.
Summary: It's easy to get caught up again in an optimistic frenzy that someone may actually challenge ESPN and Fox Sports 1 is the newest network to take a swing at Goliath. In truth, FS1 will never look better than it does today. However, the distribution base as well as an impressive array of live sports rights gives Fox Sports 1 a better chance than any network that came before. MLB, NASCAR, UFC, soccer, and BCS conference college sports provide a live sports portfolio NBC and CBS's cable networks can only dream of. Nothing in televised sports is more important than live sports rights and FS1 will have plenty that sports fans want to see from the outset. Fox has already changed the way the game is played on network television and in cable news. Cable sports is their final frontier.
@awfulannouncing oh wow you wrote a few positive things to justify being a troll site
Luckily, FOX Sports has enough inventory that this could work. FOX is moving a lot around (College Football, MLB in 2014 etc.) so hopefully this will work. I think competition is good and dont be surprised if FOX Sports 1 does well especially with there morning highlights show to see ESPN up there game.
I'm actually surprised NBC/FOX doesnt start an alliance to dethrone ESPN. Yes, ESPN/FOX have an alliance but if that was really true, why would FOX try to counter ESPN in the first place?
@awfulannouncing No information given about what happens to all the Grand-Am, ARCA and other live racing that made Speed so good.
@awfulannouncing FINALLY! just as long as they focus on one team, like a certain network that starts w an e
Instead of expanding, Fox really needs to step very far away from everything sports-related. I would almost rather not watch a given sporting event than be stuck having to watch it on Fox.
@EastCoastGamblr I believe this is the new bubble. People who don’t like sports will only go so far to subsidize the hobby via cable bills.
I wish I could be optimistic, but this seems like nothing more than a grab for money by News Corp's Fox Broadcasting division. NBC Sports Nework is tanking fast, and CBS Sports Network does not have a significant foothold to gather viewers. I can't see Fox Sports 1 doing any better against the ESPN juggernaut.
Interesting development. “@awfulannouncing: Here is everything you need to know about Fox Sports 1 http://t.co/ibc05rB6Qg”
It is going to glut the market some more with CBS Sports and NBC Sports increasing their programming. Like ESPN or not, they are still the king, and will be for quite some time!
@awfulannouncing You sure B1G & Pac-12 football champ games are moving to FS1? FOX web page release says they'll air on FOX broadcast net.
I hope they just copy Sports Center from the 90s...I don't need analysis from all the gaggle of ex-jocks, ex-coaches. I just want lots and lots of highlights
“@awfulannouncing: Here is everything you need to know about Fox Sports 1 http://t.co/IHdHX3xs6f” so excited for more soccer growth
%s you're right, the several hours spent analyzing Fox Sports 1 is just to pull the wool over your eyes. %s
.@JamesLicata I'm excited that a rival network will finally take a meaningful shot at taking down ESPN. Basically unwatchable besides games.
@mtc There should definitely be a peak with fees. competition will likely push ESPN further away from sports & deeper into pop culture shows
i think this is the first real threat to the bspn empire. fox has enough rights to fill 24 hours and 7 days a week of tv. nbc and cbs are trying but when you dont have the rights to the top tier sports leagues and conferences. you are already behind the 8 ball.
@awfulannouncing deeply analytical? Really? You write columns dedicated to others hard work just to rip it. Definition of troll
@EastCoastGamblr @mtc You say "further" like SportsCenter and Espn programming has gone away from sports. Grounded in opinion if u ask me.
@awfulannouncing you are the sports website equivalent of the homeless guy shitting on the white house steps for political discourse
@awfulannouncing well so long as you know you literally only exist online to feed the other sad trolls
@awfulannouncing so rather than discuss the fact that you only exist to criticize others (and not well) you play dumb. Great strategy
@JaredGebhardt which Twitter account is that exactly?
@awfulannouncing ah, so the person running the twitter account is playing the "confused troll"
@awfulannouncing oh look who's playing glib and confused as if the internet troll doesn't exist in your world.
@mtc Exactly. It shows the breadth and variety of shows that ESPN has to offer all types of sports fans. Some highlighting reporter opinion
@RagingBlum I mean stuff like Mike And Mike on TV, which is different sports coverage than, say, Outside The Lines or E60.
@mtc @eastcoastgamblr There is even a segment that starts "we brought in _______ to discuss (the last segment you saw)". #nothidinganything
@mtc you mean like a studio show? You don't think TNT brought Shaq and Charles together for information over opinion?
@RagingBlum @EastCoastGamblr That might increase with more channels, ESPN can ignore sports it doesn’t have broadcast rights to (see hockey)
@RagingBlum @EastCoastGamblr It’s not so much “pop culture” but more actual sports being replaced with people saying their sports opinions.