The newest 24-hour national sports channel, FOX Sports 1, will go on the air on Saturday, Aug. 17, and will be available in 90 million homes, making it the largest sports cable network launch in history. Fox Sports 1, which will take over Fox’s Speed Channel, has been discussed publicly for months but only officially announced on Tuesday in New York city.
“Our ‘secret,’ admittedly a very poorly kept one, is now revealed,” said Eric Shanks, co-president of Fox Sports Media Group. “Fans are rady 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.”
College football and college basketball, featuring the Pac 12, Big 12 and Conference USA, will be an anchor for programming. Major League Baseball begins in 2014 with regular-season games on 26 Saturdays, plus some select League Championship and League Division Series games. Select auto racing events will begin next year, including some NASCAR Sprint Cup events in 2015.
Soccer will be a large component. Fox has rights to UEFA Champions and UEFA Europa League matches, plus the CONCACAF Champions League and Gold Cup events. The World Cup for women will take place in 2015 and 2019 and for the men in 2018 and 2022.
“As a company we haven’t been afraid to innovate and take well-calculated risks,” said FSMG co-president Randy Freer. “We’ve devoted significant resources over the last few years to acquire and/or extend multi-platform rights with a wide variety of leagues and governing bodies well into the next decade, enough to give us a rich schedule right out of the box.”
The new network will roll out “Fox Sports Live,” a sports news program, much like ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” appearing after prime-time events, with a morning newscast launching in January.
Two afternoon components will include Regis Philbin hosting “Rush Hour,” a weekday talk show (5-6 p.m.) and “Fox Football Daily” (6-7 p.m.), featuring NFL talk.
The moves will make Fox Sports 1 an immediate contender with ESPN for the share of the sports cable market.
“We like our position,” said ESPN publicist Mike Humes. “We have always had vigorous competition so there is really nothing substantially new here. Others are, however, beginning to recognize what we have long known: the power of live sports, especially in light of technological advances, is substantial and brings tremendous value in today’s entertainment landscape.”
An NBC Sports spokesperson believes NBC Sports Network has substantial programming to remain a very credible cable sports entity.
Its statement: “With Premier League (soccer), the Summer and Winter Olympics, the National Hockey League, Formula One (auto racing), IndyCar, Tour de France (cycling) and many more live-event properties, NBC Sports Network is properly positioned in the sports media marketplace, particularly given its place within the wider and unique portfolio of assets and properties of the NBC Sports Group, which include broadcast, cable and regional television, as well as digital and radio.”
A CBS Sports spokesman said the network had no comment on the Fox Sports 1 rollout.
The Fox group is also launching FOX Sports GO, a mobile sports exprience for iPhone, iPad, Android devices and the internet. There will be more than 1,000 live games and events offered from Fox Sports, Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports’ 22 regional sports networks.