March 5, 2013
Media magnate Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp., has plans to take on ESPN with a new national cable sports network. FOX Sports 1 is expected to launch in August in the United States, with plans to broadcast football, motor sports, baseball and much more. Murdoch hopes that the all-sports network will be as successful in the U.S. as Sky Sports has proven in the United Kingdom.
“The channel will carry NASCAR races, Major League Baseball games, college basketball and football, soccer and U.F.C. fights,” reports The New York Times. “It will also broadcast studio shows, including one that is to be hosted by Regis Philbin, a celebrated Notre Dame fan.”
David Hill has been charged with the network’s creation and launch. Hill is the former head of the FOX Sports Media Group.
News Corp. already “owns the Speed channel, with a presence in 80 million U.S. living rooms, as well as Fuel, another motorsport channel,” reports Fast Company. “Subscription charges are expected to be between 75 cents and $1. By comparison, ESPN’s monthly charges start at $5.15.”
In addition to UK’s Sky Sports, News Corp. purchased Singapore’s ESPN Star Sports last year and has broadcast rights to Indian Premier League cricket, that broadcasts on the company’s Asia-based Star TV network.
FOX Sports 1 is a move by Murdoch to take a bite out of ESPN’s business. “ESPN brings in more than $6 billion annually from its industry-high subscriber fees,” notes NYT. “Both ESPN and ESPN2 have 98.5 million subscribers.”
“It is a true empire, with eight domestic cable channels; the ESPN3 broadband network; the Web sites ESPN.com and Grantland.com; a radio network; digital properties like ESPNw, which focuses on women’s sports; a magazine; the WatchESPN app, which enables viewing of ESPN on computers, smartphones and tablets; and ownership of the Global X Games, college basketball tournaments and seven bowl games,” details NYT.
“We view FOX as a formidable competitor,” said John Skipper, ESPN’s president. “They’ve got the resources of News Corp., and the willingness that FOX has shown in the past to take big bets and to create a difference.”
“We like our hand,” he added. “We just have to play it well.”