With NBC winning the rights to the English Premier League and the impending reshuffling taking place at Fox Sports, the future of Fox Soccer Channel is firmly up in the air. An LA Times report indicates Fox Soccer's parent company News Corp. may transform Fox Soccer into an entertainment channel, which would develop into a sister network to FX. Although nothing is set in stone, Fox's soccer programming would then move to Fox Sports One...
"With News Corp. planning to convert its Speed channel into a national sports cable network later this year and Fox Soccer recently losing some marquee events to rival outlets, the long-term viability of the network is uncertain. The remaining Fox Soccer fare could easily find its home on Fox Sports 1, which is the tentative name of the new national network.
The idea floating around News Corp. is to turn Fox Soccer into a sister channel of FX, its popular channel behind such critically acclaimed shows as "Justified" and "Sons of Anarchy." The new network may even be called FX2.
Because Fox Soccer is in almost 50 million homes, News Corp. does not want to lose that valuable real estate. However, going ahead as a soccer-only channel is unlikely given that it recently lost the rights to the English Premiere [sic] League to Comcast's NBC Sports Network."
The English Premier League is the backbone of Fox Soccer Channel. As we said when the NBC announcement was made, Fox Soccer will lose the majority of their programming when the EPL departs and the other top European leagues are either locked up with beIn Sport (Serie A, La Liga) or Gol TV (Bundesliga). All Fox Soccer will have left are the occasional Champions League game, the FA Cup... and not much else. That's hardly enough to build an entire network around.
If Fox Soccer does go by the wayside, it doesn't necessarily mean Fox's commitment to soccer will go with it. Fox must maintain some presence in the sport with the World Cup coming in 2018 and 2022. But it's more likely their soccer coverage will be integrated across national platforms like Fox Sports One and even network television (see their FA Cup broadcast on Fox two weeks ago) than a dedicated soccer channel. Champions League games would be a perfect fit as a cornerstone for Fox Sports One as would the top FA Cup games featuring teams like Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, etc. Perhaps the leftover Fox Soccer content gets worked into Fox Soccer Plus with a dash of Fuel and becomes Fox Sports 2 as well.
So far, Fox has officially said nothing about their rebranding plans, but if reports accurately indicate their size and scope, it should be one of the major stories in 2013.